Bucks, D-League Building Productive Pipeline

Sidney Moncrief, who once
starred for the Bucks, now spends
his time as a coach in the
D-League. (Getty Images)

February 7, 2007
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

Ersan Ilyasova, profiled on Bucks.com in the first segment of “Bucks Back When…” and teammates Bobby Simmons and Damir Markota are the resident poster boys for the alliance between the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Development League.

Since its inception in 2001, the NBDL has had 74 call-ups and 54 different players called up to the NBA, its parent league.

During that span, both current and former Milwaukee Bucks -- and other players and coaches with Milwaukee ties -- have been central characters in the success of the league, which expanded to 12 teams this season with the addtions of four franchises previously affiliated with the Continental Basketball Association.

The Dakota Wizards, Idaho Stampede, Colorado 14ers, Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce joined the expansion Bakersfield (Calif.) Jam as newcomers to the D-League, which already housed the Fort Worth (Texas) Flyers, Tulsa (Okla.) 66ers, Austin (Texas) Toros, Arkansas RimRockers, Anaheim (Calif.) Arsenal, Los Angeles (Calif.) D-fenders and Albuquerque (N.M.) Thunderbirds.

Several of the dozen current NBDL franchises are represented by at least one former Buck in some capacity.

Former Bucks forward and Kohler (Wis.) High School star Joe Wolf, who entered the professional coaching ranks with Idaho Stampede during its CBA affiliation, is heading up the Colorado 14ers, who call Broomfield, Colo. Home.

Wolf, who wore a Bucks uniform during the 1996-97 season, gained his first coaching experience as an assistant to his brother, Jeff, at Kohler High, where Joe racked up 2,086 points and helped the Blue Bombers win three WIAA Class C state championships during his four years on the varsity.

Wolf’s 14ers roster includes 6-foot-6-inch, 240-pound forward Mike Harris, a product of Rice University who averaged 6 points per game during the 2006-07 preseason with the Bucks. Harris had a 14-point outing against the Houston Rockets on October 18, going 6-8 from the field and grabbing eight rebounds in just over 17 minutes of play.

Arguably the most prominent former Buck in the 2006-07 NBDL ranks is Sidney Moncrief, in his first season as head coach of the Fort Worth Flyers. Moncrief, who scored 13,045 points during 10 seasons in a Milwaukee uniform spanning 1979 through ’89, is one of seven former Bucks to have his jersey number retired by the organization. Visitors to the Bradley Center can see his No. 4 hanging from the rafters alongside the digits of Jon McGlocklin, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Brian Winters, Junior Bridgeman and Bob Lanier.

Moncrief's assistant coach is another former Bucks fan favorite, Paul Mokeski. Nicknamed "Speed Bump" during his days in Milwaukee by iconic Bucks television announcer Eddie Doucette, Mokeski previously spent time as an assistant coach and scout on former Bucks coach Don Nelson's staff with the Dallas Mavericks. Mokeski is no doubt trying to instruct Fort Worth's bigs in the fine points of the deft shooting touch he displayed as a player.

Ha Seung-Jin, the 7-foot-3-inch, 305-pound center who came to Milwaukee last summer along with Steve Blake and Brian Skinner when the Bucks traded Jamaal Magloire to the Portland TrailBlazers, was released by the Bucks just prior to the beginning of the 2006-07 regular season. The 21-year-old is attemping to bolster his professional experience with the Anaheim (Calif.) Arsenal.

Chucky Brown, a teammate of Joe Wolf's on the 1996-97 Bucks, is an assistant coach with the Los Angeles D-fenders. The D-fenders' head coach, Dan Panaggio, came to the D-League after spending a year in Milwaukee as an assistant to Tom Crean at Marquette University. One of the players Brown and Panaggio are coaching is former UCLA forward T.J. Cummings, the son of former Bucks forward Terry Cummings.

The Marquette program is further represented in the D-League by former Golden Eagles center Greg Clausen, who is manning the middle for the Albuquerque (N.M.) Thunderbirds, and ex-Wauwatosa East High School star Scott Merritt, a forward/center with the Austin (Texas) Toros. Merritt has had tohelp fill the shoes of Marcus Fizer, another former Buck. Fizer was named the NBDL's Most Valuable Player last season, and after earning a late-season call-up to the NBA, has moved on to play in Spain for Polaris World Marcia this year.

One of the D-League's hottest current prospects is former University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee star Clay Tucker. The 6-3 guard is averaging 16.7 points per game for the Arkansas RimRockers.

Another player who could hear from the NBA soon is former Milwaukee Vincent standout Quemont Greer, a 6-7, 240 forward with the Dakota Wizards. Greer was averaging 17,1 points through Jan. 28 and recently made the D-League honor roll with a 32-point performance that helped Dakota win its seventh consecutive game.

Julius Hodge, who became a Buck on Jan. 11, coming to Milwaukee along with Earl Boykins from the Denver Nuggets in a trade for Steve Blake but was waived on Feb. 7, made 11 appearances with the Austin Toros during the 2005-06 season, averaging 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Since the NBDL went into business in 2001, it has either helped launch or sustain the pro careers of five other players who have spent time on the Bucks' roster: Milwaukee Rufus King High School product Mike Wilks played for the Huntsville (Ala.) Flight and is now with the Seattle SuperSonics; former Bucks draft choice Jason Hart was a member of the Asheville (N.C.) Altitude and is currently with the San Antonio Spurs; Rafer Alston, who backed up Sam Cassell in Milwaukee for three seasons, saw duty with the Mobile Revelers and has since become the pointman for the Houston Rockets; and forward Brandon Williams (Huntsville Flight) and guard Andre Barrett (Florida Flame) both had auditions as Bucks training campers in recent years.

D-Leaders: Through action of Jan. 28, the Dakota Wizards (15-6) were leading the NBDL's Eastern Division with a 15-6 record, a half-game up on the Fort Worth Flyers (15-7). The Idaho Stampede (17-8) and Colorado 14ers (17-8) shared the Western Division lead ... Kelenna Azubuike of Fort Worth was leading the league in scoring at 26.2 points per game, followed by teammate Louis Williams (26.0), Von Wafer of Colorado (20.5), Dijon Thompson of Albuquerque (20.3), B.J. Elder of Austin (20.0), Denham Brown of Tulsa (19.6), Vincent Grier of Sioux Falls (19.5), Devin Green of Los Angeles (19.3), Jawad Williams of Anaheim (19.3) and Andre Brown of Sioux Falls.

Making Headlines: D-League news doesn't ordinarily receive national exposure, but it did on Jan. 25 for a funny, if dubious, episode.

With the Colorado 14ers trailing the host Austin Toros with 0.4 seconds left in the game, Austin's mascot, Da Bull, received a technical foul for hanging on the rim at the end of regulation play.

Loren Woods had dunked with under 5 seconds to go to give Austin a 101-97 lead. When Colorado players sprinted to the other end of the court, Da Bull was waiting for them, hanging on the rim.

Time expired, but the referees slapped the mascot with a technical foul. Colorado made the free throw, and 0.4 seconds were put back on the clock. The 14ers missed a desperation 3-point attempt, and Austin emerged with a 101-98 win.

Da Bull, meanwhile, was no doubt seeing red -- or turning red -- after he lost his mascot head when he fell to the court and rushed to avoid the oncoming Colorado players.

Toros officials suspended Da Bull for two games and assigned to perform 50 hours of community service.