After making the NBA D-League Finals in each of the last two seasons, it's safe to say the Santa Cruz Warriors are one of the minor league's most successful franchises.
But repeating such success isn't the easiest thing to do in the NBADL. In a league most known for helping its members flourish and move on to bigger and better things, there are multiple moving parts. Coaches can get promoted, players can earn more money elsewhere, etc.
The cycle continues to repeat itself as teams in the minor league uncover those hidden gems again and again each and every season. Perhaps this is what makes the open tryout process so important. It's about adjusting to the old talent no longer being around by embracing the new talent just as whole-heartedly.
Santa Cruz understands the fundamentals of such a process quite well, as evidenced by their continued success and most recent D-League "Development Champion" award winning campaign last season.
And now it's time to start all over again. On October 18th, the team will host an open tryout session at the affiliated Golden State Warriors' practice facility in Oakland (Click here for more info). With that in mind, head coach Casey Hill spoke with RidiculousUpside.com about what the team hopes to find, the inspirational stories, the fun ones, etc.
Continue reading below for more.
Q: Let's talk about the importance of these tryouts. What does your team get out of them?
A: I think the local tryouts are one of the most unique parts of the D-League and what the league is doing. It provides us the chance to do research on guys that are lesser known. We really get to know who is out there. There are some guys we'd like to know more about, and others we're sure to be intrigued by when they show up. That's truly why we do it and why we're holding it in Oakland. A lot of our guys from last season are overseas making money now, and rightfully so. It's the next group's turn.
Q: In past seasons, some of your team's key contributors, such as Kiwi Gardner and Daniel Nwaelele, have emerged from these tryouts. Is it safe to say Santa Cruz has a solid track record with these tryout sessions?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Kiwi came to both of our local tryouts. We actually ended up taking him in the D-League Draft, but if it weren't for the local tryouts, we probably wouldn't have taken him. We wouldn't have known as much about him. And then there was Kevin Kotzur, who was a guy who we found in open tryouts last year. He was a huge contributor for us early on when Dewayne Dedmon was going back and forth, and Hilton Armstrong was still getting his feet under him. That was great for us. Now Kevin is playing in Japan. That's a true D-League success story right there.
Q: The Warriors have made the D-League Finals in each of the last two seasons. You've been a part of both teams, first as an assistant, and most recently, as the head coach. Entering this season, a lot of your key guys are already playing overseas. It seems like a tough task to to rebuild and aim to repeat the same success. What's that like for you?
A: I think for me, I see this as a very necessary challenge. We're walking into a year where we don't have as many returning guys as in years' past. This is an opportunity for us to go out and find new guys. We'll build a team, not necessarily from scratch, but pretty dang close to it. I'm actually looking forward to it. These kind of situations pop up all the time in the D-League, so it'll be fun challenge.
Q: I know you're probably looking forward to having Kiwi Gardner back this season. Coming off his most recent participation with Golden State in NBA Summer League, is he an inspiration for these new open tryout participants?
A: It's hard for me to explain exactly what Kiwi has meant to me, especially in my first year as head coach. He was a guy who came in and played so hard --- like he was still trying to make the team everyday. He is definitely a reference point for me when I talk to other players. One day he's trying out for a D-League team, the next, he's scoring 7 points in 57 seconds in an NBA Summer League game. He's been really great for us.
Q: On one hand, Santa Cruz is keeping an eye out for potential talent to make an impact on this coming season's squad. The team takes this process seriously. But even so, isn't this also a fun opportunity for those looking to live the dream and play on the practice floor of an NBA team?
A: There are multiple factors that play into how cool this experience can be. I'm sure there are guys that come into it and think about how cool it is to play on Golden State's practice floor. They could still get picked up. Others come in with the mentality that they will get picked up. The type of energy in that gym is a really fun one to be around. The players bring a ton of energy. It's funny. They're always tired about 45 minutes into the workout, because that nervous energy starts to wear off. I think it'll be a fun experience.