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NBA D-League Tryouts: What To Expect, And How to Impress

NBA D-League teams have rolled out their dates for open tryouts, and players across the country will soon be showcasing their talents in hopes of catching the eye of NBADL coaches and team personnel. How can players make the most out of their opportunity?

Photo from the 2012-2013 Idaho Stampede open tryout in Boise, Idaho
Photo from the 2012-2013 Idaho Stampede open tryout in Boise, Idaho

Every season, NBA D-League teams host open tryouts in hopes of adding a talent that may have slipped through the cracks, or is on the rise and simply in need of an opportunity. Dennis Horner parlayed an impressive open tryout showing into a roster spot with the Springfield Armor, and ultimately landed an eight game stint with the Nets.

Surely, there will be more Dennis Horner stories to come, but does a specific formula, or criteria that NBADL coaches and decision makers work from exist? How can hopeful prospects stick out of the crowd, and be considered for a roster spot on an NBA D-League team? spoke with three different sources to gain a better idea of the mindset for both players, and coaches participating in open tryouts. In addition to speaking with Idaho Stampede head coach Mike Peck, prospective tryout participant Chehales Tapscott (reigning IBL MVP, and highly touted NBADL prospect), also received comments from a former NBA special assignment scout Joe Navarro. Recently, Navarro was selected to be the head coach for an expansion franchise in Hiroshima, Japan, as apart of the bj-Challenge League.

Working from three different perspectives, a more conclusive and educated approach can be taken when considering the NBADL open tryout process. For players hoping to be one step closer to their NBA dream, the NBADL open tryout is a unique, and tremendous opportunity for them to springboard their basketball careers in a highly conducive setting.

The Scout's Take

Navarro was a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers for a number of years, and as a head coach for the Vancouver Volcanoes in the IBL, Navarro is plenty familiar with players at the NBADL level, and talent just on the cusp of being in the NBA Development League.

Currently in Hiroshima, Japan, and preparing for his first season as head coach in the bj-Challenge League, Navarro spoke with about the tryout process, and what general managers and team personnel might be looking for.

"The coaches are really looking for the same thing that every coach in every league does, the best players. The percentage of players that actually make the jump from the D-League to the NBA is minuscule. Some NBA franchises use it as a minor league similar to AAA baseball, where guys can go down and get minutes after an injury, or to gain some experience early in their careers. Other don't really use it at all, and it is sort of a bother to them." Navarro said.

Additionally, Navarro touched on what players may be thinking of regarding their careers and the decision to stay in the states, or play overseas this time of year. "Many GM's in other countries consider the D-League as the guys who are almost NBA ready, when realistically about 5% of the league is NBA ready. Once a player can put the D-League on their resume', they have a greater ability to leverage contracts in other leagues, and make much better money. Seth Tarver is a good example of that. He's here in the BJ League now after two seasons with the Stampede." Navarro added.

Obviously, Navarro's stance and outlook on prospective NBADL players has more of an international take, but his comments are extremely valuable for players on the fence of trying out for the D-League, or packing their bags for an overseas opportunity. There will be plenty of NBADL tryout attendees with the talent to play for prominent international clubs, and receive more lucrative contracts as opposed to a paycheck in the D-League.

In the end, it is up to the player though, and the specific goals that he's set forth for himself. Does he have a family that he must provide for? Or, does he have the flexibility to play in the NBADL, and put himself on perhaps the quickest route to the NBA? One thing is for sure, players at the NBADL open tryouts will be there to earn a spot on a D-League roster, and the overseas option is on the back burner, at least for the time being.

The Player's Mentality

Chehales Tapscott is coming off another impressive season in the IBL, and earned MVP honors after averaging 23.3 points and 13.2 rebounds. Tapscott will be among the attendees at the Portland, Oregon tryout for the Idaho Stampede. According to Navarro (who coached Tapscott this last season in the IBL), "from a skill set standpoint he's as good as anyone in that league (NBADL)."

As Tapscott awaits the Idaho Stampede tryout, he caught up with, and shared his thoughts about an NBADL opportunity. Coming off another season in the IBL, Tapscott feels ready for the NBADL. "The IBL helped me out a lot, the fact that I was playing in a professional league with other professional players helped me gain experience as far as the speed of the game. It also helped me view the flaws in my own game. In college, I could get away with some things based off my athletic ability, but in the IBL there are tons of athletic players so I had to adjust my game, and really work on my flaws."

The allure of playing overseas is something that weighs heavily on Tapscott's mind, and is something he must consider despite his hope of playing in the NBADL. "The positives with playing overseas is more money, and travelling to places I have only dreamed of. The positives with the D-League is that I'm one step closer to my lifetime goal, the NBA. Also, my friends and family would be able to watch me play too."

Heading into the tryout, Tapscott keeps it simple regarding his mindset, "I plan on doing what I naturally do, and that's play the game of basketball at a high level. I feel as though if they give me an opportunity, they won't regret it." Tapscott concluded.

Despite his 6-5 frame, Tapscott's record setting 20-straight double-doubles this past season in the IBL is proof that the Portland State alum can put up solid numbers against formidable competition. Showcasing those abilities in front of the Stampede personnel will be crucial if Tapscott wants to stay in the states to further his basketball career.

The Coach's View

With his team's first open tryout less than a week away, Idaho Stampede head coach Mike Peck also spoke with about the tryout process, and provided his valuable coaching perspective.

"Like any team, at all levels, we are looking for players that can and will best fit our culture of knowing how to play within structure, competing hard at both ends of the floor, and competing with a selfless, team-first mindset. We will be working and communicating closely with Portland throughout the process. Like always, we will work hard to develop each and everyone of our players in their pursuit of making an NBA roster." Peck commented.

Peck is coming into his second season as head coach for the Stampede, and will likely be more comfortable with the process, and knowledgeable as to what to look for during the tryouts. In fact, the successful former Findlay Prep head coach added what he will be specifically searching for.

"The one skill that will stand out, in my opinion, is that of making the catch, off the dribble, from three, from mid-range, but most importantly within the flow of the offense." Peck added.

Peck then closed with a quote from Hubie Brown, "making shots makes up for a multitude of sins."

Between the two tryouts which the Stampede have scheduled, Peck will likely have the ability to scout a player that will fit their needs. The open tryout, in essence, is the unofficial start to the NBADL season, and as training camp inches closer, finding capable talent at an open tryout is certainly a nice way to start the season. Peck, and his crew will look to do just that, as well as the other NBADL coaching staffs across the league.