With September’s arrival, we are on the verge of 2017 G League Training Camp. The Legends will customarily take several players with them as they get ready to open up the new season, but four of those guys will take a unique path to get there…
The organization hosted their open tryouts this past weekend and nearly 200 aspiring players showed up to Prestonwood Baptist Church’s three-court gym to participate.
The once in a lifetime event can be described in just a few words and the always high-spirited Donnie Nelson is happy to supply them.
“Hopefully we’ll find the next J.J. Barea,” says the Legends Owner and Dallas Mavericks General Manager.
It’s not rocket science. But like rocket science, it’s incredibly difficult. Nelson knows a thing or two about discovering diamonds in the rough. Along with Legends President/GM Malcolm Farmer, President of Basketball Operations Spud Webb, Vice President Del Harris and pretty much the club’s entire arsenal of basketball operations staff, there are several qualified pairs of eyes on the lookout for the next big thing.
“I love it,” says returning Head Coach Bob MacKinnon. “The G League has always been a league of opportunity. You’ve got guys coming from open tryouts –Dwight Buycks, Jonathan Simmons–who come from open tryouts who make it all the way to the NBA.”
This isn’t just a publicity stunt, either. The team will search and identify multiple talents that will join the club in training camp next month under MacKinnon. “It really is a league of opportunity.”
With so many players on display, it helps to have a lot of eyes and ears. But the Legends’ coach can narrow it down with a quick eye test. “It’s just if a guy knows how to play. If he fits what we look for in a player. Guys that can get up and down the court, make plays for other people and then guys defensively who can keep people in front and guard.”
It’s about finding their man, but also giving anyone the taste of the dream to become a pro basketball player. “Anybody who wants to sign up and feels like they have a chance can sign up,” says MacKinnon, who helped lead the Legends to a franchise best 25 wins last season as well as five NBA call-ups, another new bar set by the club. “Everyone’s going to play three games. They get a chance to be seen not only by our staff but Donnie Nelson and Spud Webb. We have people from Canadian basketball leagues, people from the ABA. There’s a lot of eyes on these guys for future opportunities.”
Players from all over the state…no, country…actually world showed up to try and win one of those precious invites. One of those players was Kent Wood, a 23-year old from Nassau, Bahamas who hit it off instantly with the worldly Legends boss Nelson.
Donnie, of course known for discovering one Dirk Nowitzki in Germany, inspires players like Wood to make the trip. But it wasn’t Nelson specifically that piqued Wood’s interest in the Legends.
It was Spud Webb. The Nassau native was watching an episode of Beyond the Bounce, our very own Texas Legends video production, that featured Mr. Webb himself. Scrolling down, he read about the open tryouts and made plans to be a part of it.
“He’s an idol of mine,” Wood says through a smile far bigger than his frame. “He paved the way for us smaller guards. I gotta get a picture before I leave!”
Balling since age nine, he won his high school’s championship his senior year and currently studies at the University of Central Florida while chasing his hoop dreams.
Hailing from the island country, his family is doing fine in the midst of Hurricane Irma and he’s playing with a clear mindset: make the G League. “Hopefully I can get into the G League, develop my game more, learn a lot, just become a sponge, learn from the professionals and veterans already there and then hopefully one day get an opportunity to play in the NBA.”
There’s nothing resembling the word shy from Wood, which along with his Bahamian roots, explains hitting it off with Nelson. He takes the court with a unique, bandana-like headband style that he says is coming with him if he makes the Legends…and if it doesn’t violate the rules.
“This is my style. This is what I do. Kent Wood style. This is going to be my signature…as long it’s legal in the G League!”
Also trekking from outside the United States is 26-year old Brent Schuck. Originally from Manhattan, Kansas, his response to my asking where he’s from is: “That’s a good question. All over.”
His mother is a school teacher on military bases which has led Schuck to spend six years in Japan, three years in Germany and find his current residence in China. He flew in from Beijing for the week and found out about the tryouts through something we can all share: a love for the one and only Dirk.
“I’m a big fan of the Mavericks. I grew up wearing number 41 after my main man Dirk. A couple days before the deadline to sign up, I saw the article online and my girlfriend signed me up. I got in, registered, and here I am.”
No stranger to basketball events –his current work in China revolves around the very subject– he specifically appreciates the care that the Legends show with this event. “It seems like they really care about it. They said they did and they’re showing everyone here that they’re involved. Everyone’s watching. They aren’t just here to be here, they’re interactive and I can tell they really care about what’s going on here.”
Dozens and dozens of players of all talent levels from all over the world like Wood and Schuck are contending for coveted roster spots. Judging by the attendance, the attention to detail, the integrity and popularity of the event, every year is only getting bigger and the talent arriving to show out is only getting better.
EPlay Partners with Legends to Give Basketball Players the Power
Players Revolution President and Co-Founder Ryan Girardot was one of the onlookers at the Legends open tryouts. The company developed the EPlay app (with developers that have worked on Match.com), which provides basketball players at any level and any location –from a pick-up contest to a high school game to the G League and beyond– the opportunity to build themselves a player profile, building and tracking it as they pursue their basketball interests.
Players Revolution was a partner at the Texas Legends tryout, giving the aspiring athletes the opportunity to test drive the new product.
Scoring a player like you would see in the NBA 2K video game, the free app tracks your progress as you play games at any level so you can build a portfolio of your accomplishments. Think of it as a basketball résumé.
“EPlay puts the power of your sports career in your hands,” says Girardot. “No matter what skill, gender or where you are, all that matters is you’re on the court, who you’re playing and that it’s good data.”
Scorekeepers are trained, approved and provided by EPlay and if your game is scored through the E-Scorebook, it will store into the EPlay database through the app. The more you play, the more material on your own game you’ll have.
Chief Product Evangelist Charles C. Gaines elaborates on how the app can be used for literally any level of basketball play. “Once you’re done with high school, the options can be very limited and frustrating in terms competition and finding where to play. EPlay was born out of that need.”
For more information on EPlay, visit http://www.eplay.us/.