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Bruce Massey Jr Reflects on Early Days in the G League

The older veteran recalls the days when it was still the NBA’s Development League or NBADL.

Springfield Armor v Maine Red Claws Photo by Rich Obrey/NBAE via Getty Images

When Bruce Massey Jr. first played in the G League, it was still the NBA Development League. The team he first suited up for, the Springfield Armor, no longer exists.

The landscape of the league was very different and the talent level wasn’t as strong as it is today. With the expansion of the league and the majority of NBA teams having their own affiliates now, much has changed.

It’s a far cry from when Massey can recall having multiple NBA rookies from different teams on the same squad.

Springfield Armor v Fort Wayne Mad Ants Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

“When I first came to the NBA Development League at the time, I believe there were 15 or 16 teams at the time. Now there’s about 28 or 29, so the number of teams is different,” Massey told Ridiculous Upside. “The roster makeup was different, there wasn’t any two-ways. For the most part, there was a lot of tweener NBA guys. My team probably had three or four rookies, it was totally different. It was a lot of fun though.”

Massey’s route to professional basketball came via Dodge City Community College, and then two years at Middle Tennessee State. The G League draft was organized differently as well, and he was selected by Springfield with the 1st pick of the eighth-round. He spent a year with the Armor before moving on.

It wasn’t until his second year in the league, with the Grand Rapids Drive during the 2015-16 season, that he began to have a major impact. That season, he put up 10.9 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.4 steals. He began the following season with Grand Rapids but was eventually traded to the Erie BayHawks.

He didn’t play much for Erie, but he did manage to shoot 41.7 percent from the three-point line. Having spent around five years in the league from 2013 to 2018, Massey definitely saw the level of play and talent increase.

“You definitely see a change. Now the more teams that you have, the more talent that stays home,” Massey said. “When there was a smaller number of teams, there wasn’t as deep a roster, there was limited spots and guys were trying to get that call-up. The competition was still really good, but now you see a lot of younger guys in the G League now.”

Windy City Bulls vs Grand Rapids Drive Photo by Dennis Slagle/NBAE via Getty Images

This past season, Massey decided to try something new. His basketball journey took him north of the border to Canada. He initially suited up for the Cape Brenton Highlanders of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada). He ended up finishing the year with the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).

With Cape Breton, he put up 23.4 points per game shooting 36 percent from the three-point line, 7.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.8 steals. With Saskatchewan, he put up 19.6 points per game, 5.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.0 steals.

It ended up being a suggestion from his coaches with Grand Rapids that suggested the move due to a crowded roster.

“The coaches told me I was talented, but there wasn’t going to be a lot of minutes for me. They said that this was one of the years I needed to go play,” Massey said. “They recommended me to a team in Canada. I got picked up and ended up playing well. Since then my career has been able to take off. It’s been a blessing in disguise.”

While playing in Canada, Massey noticed some similarities to the leagues over there and the G League. He was impressed with the level of talent and the high level of exposure the Canadian leagues get.

“It’s like a poor man’s G League. It’s fast-paced, it’s up and down. There’s a lot more Americans in Canada then people think,” Massey said. “Scores are high like in the G League. It lets you get film, it lets you showcase your talent, lets you play at a high level, and it helps you get looks in Europe.”

Massey has since become one of those players who used the Canadian leagues to get a look in Europe. This season, he signed with BC Odessa in Ukraine as part of the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague (UBSL). In eight games thus far, he’s put up 20.6 points on 48.4 percent shooting from the field, 4.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.1 steals.

While he hasn’t played in the G League in two years now, he wouldn’t rule out a return to the league if everything was right.

“Now that I’m older and I’ve gotten better, the game is slowing down, I could definitely play in the G League now. I can definitely go back and try to earn a call-up and try to get some interest from an NBA team,” Massey said. “If you do well in the G League, you do get a chance to go to one of the top teams in Europe. If I had a chance to go back, I’d definitely go back.”