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Long Island Nets Tryout Gives Local Talent A Chance To Shine

Long Island native Diego Maldonado was one of the local products who took advantage of a platform at the Long Island Nets’ recent open tryout.

Queens College Men’s Basketball

With their sights set on competing in the upcoming season, the Long Island Nets took a peek into its backyard this weekend, hosting an open tryout at LIU-Post for aspiring G League athletes. Players pay an entry fee for a spot in such an audition —- in this case, Long Island charged $175 per head. Given the related expenses players must take on — travel, lodging, etc. — it makes sense for local talent to take advantage of such a nearby opportunity, rather than venturing across the globe, to prove their worth. With that in mind, players from the Tri-state area (specifically New York) were much more prevalent during this session. In turn, not as many prospects from out of town could be found.

So the question remains, was there enough local talent for the team to be intrigued?

Such a question is up for debate, but there were a select few players who held their own throughout the day’s festivities. Nate Hickman, who was also one of’s standout performers from the 2018 Worldwide Invitational in Las Vegas earlier this summer, absolutely looked like a professional. He took direction well from the coaching staff during drills, held his own on the defensive end, and looked like a polished floor general during 5 on 5 competition. It’s difficult to run the floor when playing alongside amateurs, but Hickman made solid plays and did the best he could to make those around him better.

Hickman averaged 8.7 points as a senior at Columbia last season, and played high school ball in New Jersey. He wasn’t the only local product to impress. Diego Maldonado from Queens College put on display his sharpshooting ways that have made him a well known commodity across other local showcases over the past year and a half. After averaging 13.1 points on a 46/44/85 shooting clip as a senior back in 2016-17, Maldonado got his first exposure to the pro game this past summer when he played alongside OJ Mayo and Raphiael Putney in Puerto Rico.

Michael Vigilance, a 6’9” center from Yonkers, played his senior collegiate season at Clark Atlanta and was a rare bright spot among present big men at the tryout. He was able to use his physicality to limit opposing players from cashing in on high percentage looks from under the basket. Still, it remains to be seen how he would perform against a higher level of competition. Thomas Rivera played high school ball in New Jersey before becoming a collegiate reserve. He held his own much like Hickman, serving as a floor general for the amateur athletes who needed guidance on the hardwood. CJ White, a rare out of town product from Southern Nazarene, displayed strong rebounding skills for a guard.

Hickman was among those athletes who competed during an invite-only portion hosted by Long Island later in the day. Others to turn up later in the afternoon included Kyle Benjamin and former OKC Blue guard George Beamon.

But with so many aspiring professionals paying their way through the earlier part of the day, it was difficult for those who may be talented enough to play professionally to truly shine. Long Island’s staff was tasked with spotting the select few diamonds in the rough. Still, the most admirable component of the session was that the organization seems truly dedicated to building organically and discovering local talent. For some teams, maintaining a local presence in the community and remaining committed to providing a platform for local talent can be more rewarding than potentially flying out a few kids from out of town to play, just for the short gain. The Nets’ vision for this type of avenue appears to be tapping into the “local” (many attending players grew up in New York, if not Long Island specifically) talent and seeing how far they go. Long Island native JJ Moore, who has played two seasons with the Nets after attending a similar session, is a prime example. Perhaps someone like Hickman or Maldonado could be next.