***This special contribution comes from Bob MacKinnon, a longtime NBA D-League head coach who won the 2008-09 championship with the Colorado 14ers. His teams over the years have gone on to secure a healthy helping of offensive records, and Coach MacKinnon has served as Director of the NBADL's national tryouts and elite mini-camps.***
The NBA D-League is the league of opportunity; especially for the players who come in with the right attitude and take full advantage of the opportunities the league affords them. Having coached in the league five of the last six seasons, I would like to share the stories of two such players who have totally different circumstances and experiences:
The Veteran - Shawne Williams
Shawne was the 17th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft; he had played for 5 NBA teams prior to joining us with the LA D-Fenders in late January of last season. This would go on to be the first of his two stints with us (He received a call-up to the Lakers in between).
Playing with the D-Fenders, he helped us compile the second best overall record in the league, appearing in 23 games, averaging just under 21 points game and 7 reb per game. More than stats however, what he brought was a professional attitude & toughness, and a tremendous work ethic.
In large part, because of his work with us, Shawne was signed by the Miami Heat this past summer. When he signed with the Heat, he texted me that he was told that the team looked at video of every one of his D-League games, and how appreciative he is for that opportunity! Currently, Shawne has started every game for the Heat this season and is showing what we knew last year - he is a true pro!
The Rookie - Tyrrel Tate
I received a call from an agent this past May regarding working with a player who just graduated from an NCAA Division II school and was trying to play professionally. The agent thought it was a long shot, but asked if I would work with Tyrrel Tate, as he lived in my area. Tyrrel came in, and after two workouts, we sat down to assess his situation. I told him that I felt he was talented, but he needed to get in shape and transform his game from a DII 4 man, to a 2/3 wing player if he wanted to make the jump to the NBA D-League.
Tyrrel worked out with myself and his conditioning coach -- Wade Harris -- through the spring/summer and into the fall. He transformed his body, lost 24 pounds and impressed the D-League front office personnel in the minor league's National Tryout Camp. He was signed to a D-League contract, which entered him into the 2014 NBADL Draft.
It's tough for a DII player to get drafted, but the Idaho Stampede picked Tyrrel in the seventh round. Still a long shot to make it, he went to training camp with the same attitude that made him drive an hour daily in the summer, sometimes late on Friday nights, to work on his game with me. He impressed the coaches with the Stampede and made their ten man active roster to open up this season. Earlier this season, he scored 12 points. in 21 minutes, helping the Stampede to a big road win over the LA D-Fenders!
These are just two of many stories of players taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to them by the NBA Development League, and more proof why the league continues to grow and has become the second best basketball league in the world today!