Melvin Ely - Texas Legends (2012-14)
When he made his way to Frisco, Texas in the fall of 2012, Melvin Ely was a 34-year-old veteran fighting for one more opportunity in the Association. While he was one of the lucky few that were able to spend nine years in the Association, where he experienced everything from the highs of winning a title with San Antonio in 2007 to being a part of a few lackluster Charlotte Bobcats teams when they entered the NBA in the mid 2000’s. However, at that point, Ely was almost two years removed from his last opportunity with the Denver Nuggets in 2010-11 season.
Although the 6’10 big was more than a decade older than his teammates and on-court foes, a mix of experience and the skill that allowed him to be a lottery pick in the 2002 NBA Draft allowed him to immediately stand as one of the better front-court players in the D-League. During that 2012-13 season, his solid play was shown by how he averaged 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds on 50% from the field in only 26 minutes per game due to having to share minutes with both Sean Williams and Dwayne Jones.
Following a solid but forgettable season for the Legends, he put it together for the team during the following 2014-15 campaign. In 29 minutes per game, he put up 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks on 60% from the field in 29 minutes per game. Those stood as the best numbers that he averaged since his junior season with Fresno State way back during the 2000-01 college season.
That production came through him excelling in the low post and as a roll man in a year where Golden State was starting to change basketball through their perimeter dominance. Along with getting named to the D-League All-Star game, Ely’s production with Texas led to the greatest gift that a 35-year-old journey man could receive: another opportunity in the NBA. After the strong season with Texas, New Orleans awarded him with a guaranteed contract on April 13th. While he only played a total of 27 minutes for the team before they traded him to the Wizards on July 15th, who waived him just fifteen days later.
While Ely’s career as a basketball player would end just one year later after a stint in Puerto Rico, he’ll still be remembered in G League circles for his great 2013-14 campaign with the Legends and how he received one more shot in the NBA.
Booker Woodfox - Texas Legends (2010-12, 2013-15)
Before Daryl Morey used the RGV Vipers to experiment with perimeter shooting and David Arsenault brought his unique style to Reno, there was one man that shined brightest from beyond the arc: Booker Woodfox. After a solid two-year run with Creighton which included a spot on the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Conference First Team in 2008-09, the 6’1 guard struggled to get his foot in the D-League door.
Selected in the 4th round of the 2009 D-League Draft by Fort Wayne, Woodfox became more accustomed to the waiver wire than the court as he was cut by both Fort Wayne and Erie while not spending a second on the court. That inability to get on the court led to the 6’1 guard returning to the D-League draft, as the Legends picked him in the 6th round.
Despite a late selection which usually means doom for most players, Woodfox was able to overcome the odds to become a solid role player for the squad. As a D-League rookie, he averaged 10.8 points on 45% from the field and 38% from 3 on 3.3 attempts in only 20 minutes per game. Along with that solid production, the young guard became a permanent part of league history by winning the three-point contest during the 2011 All-Star weekend.
Over his next three seasons for Texas, Woodfox would maintain his status as one of the most perimeter shooters in the league. The apex of that came in the 2013-14 season where he put up 9.7 points, 2.4 assists, and 2.1 rebounds on 44% from the field and 47% from beyond the arc on 4.4 attempts per game. That amazing efficiency led to him standing as one of the best perimeter shooters in the league, while being more efficient than Andre Ingram and future NBA mainstays Troy Daniels and Seth Curry.
Although Woodfox ‘s time in the league would be over after the 2014-15 season, his stance as a dominant D-League shooter during the early to mid 2000’s makes him one player worth remembering.
Jameel Warney - Texas Legends (2016-19)
As someone that’s written about the D/G League since 2012, there’s been numerous cases where I’ve fallen in love with a player’s game, and gotten excited about them getting opportunities in the NBA, only for them to never stick. Some examples have been Sioux Falls Skyforce greats Briante Weber and DeAndre Liggins, who both received multiple opportunities in the NBA only to never stick. Just this year, Sir’Dominic Pointer and Dusty Hannahs were guys that excelled and were the kinds of players that could help out an NBA team but weren’t able to stick in the Association.
In regards to former Legends, a player that immediately jumps to my mind is Jameel Warney. From his rookie year in the 2016-17 campaign through the 2018-19 season, he was able to consistently excel no matter if he had USA or Legends stitched across his jersey.
On the international level, Warney pushed a team filled with G League talent to winning the 2017 FIBA Americup through averaging 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on 65% from the field. Along with receiving the MVP for his play in that tournament, he was also named USA Basketball’s Men’s Player of the Year for his work in the Americup and 2019 Americas World Cup Qualifer.
In addition to his play in FIBA competition, the 6’8 big was able to stand as one of the league’s most consistent front-court prospects through a mix of low-post excellence, great facilitating, great effort on defense, and using his 260 pound frame to snag numerous offensive rebounds. That versatility allowed him to average 18.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 steals, and 1.1 steals per game on 53% from the field in 133 career D/G League games.
While his G League career seems to be over after making the trek to South Korea for the 2019-20 season, Warney’s mix of clear ability and constant effort on both ends of the floor allowed him to be a player that fans within the Frisco, Texas area won’t ever forget about.