D-Fenders Hold Tryout
On Saturday at the Aviation Park Gym in North Redondo, 46 hoopers with dreams of playing professional basketball gathered in pursuit of the same goal: impressing L.A. D-Fenders brass enough to be invited to the team's upcoming training camp.
As D-Fenders General Manager Glenn Carraro explained, the 2011-12 squad will be made up of some combination of the team's eight picks in November's 8-round draft, some number of 14 available players from the Utah Flash (who will be sitting out the 2011-12 season) and three to five of the 46 players assembled at the tryout.
Only 17 of those players will comprise the D-Fenders training camp roster, while 10 will survive to make the actual active roster set to compete against the other D-League teams. In some ways, Saturday's morning and evening sessions were designed to help Carraro and his staff discover the proverbial diamond in the rough.
"We're looking for role players, guys that are hungry, guys that want it," he said. "A lot of guys play at small schools that are good players that don't get a lot of exposure."
In the evening scrimmages, the level of intensity wasn't far off what one would see in an NBA playoff game. The players were literally fighting for the basketball lives, trying to find some way to stand out in the crowd.
"We've done a lot of research, and we have scouts out there and plenty of resources to try and find some of these guys to give them an opportunity," Carraro added. "They may be really talented, but the opportunity may not have been there for them to showcase their skills."
Helping Carraro run the show on Saturday was the team's head coach, Eric Musselman, who led the Reno Bighorns to a 34-16 D-League record last year and has coached both Golden State and Sacramento at the NBA level. We caught up with Musselman during the evening session:
On what kind of players were asked to the tryout:
Musselman: We tried to get the most talented group we could in here, and it's a good blend some guys that are going to be in the D-League draft already, some guys that are eligible to come to our veterans' camp and then some guys who have qualifications to be in the draft because they've been All-Conference (in college). It's a wide range of talented guys.
On what occurred at the morning session:
Musselman: We had six stations: teaching side out-of-bounds plays; baseline out-of-bounds play; half-court offense; defense; skill development (and one other). After that, we scrimmaged a lot, just trying to find between three and five guys that could come to our veteran camp and fight to make the team.
On what Musselman and Carraro are looking for:
Musselman: There are guys we've seen tape of, but it may be overseas tape that isn't the highest quality. Other guys are coming right out of college, playing at a lower level, but now you're seeing them play against much better competition. We've mixed the teams up to look at specific match-ups we want to see between players. We need somebody from this camp that can bring us energy, or some special skill. Whether it's an excellent rebounder, for example, there should be some special skill, because more likely guys out of this camp are role players as opposed to stars.
On the commitment needed to try and gain a coveted spot:
Musselman: We brought in guys we felt like played hard and had high energy, guys that really wanted to be here. Some of these guys make a pretty big commitment, flying their own way in or driving seven or eight hours. We feel like we've given everybody a fair look, even going long in this morning's session (from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and coming back tonight. To me, even some of the D-League guys are playing to get called-up, but some guys are just trying to make a D-League team. These are 46 very, very good players, a lot just trying to enter the basketball business world, and this is their first taste of what a hard process it is. Maybe when you're in college, you don't understand. You think it's going to be easy, but it's not. It's not any different from a guy that's going to work at a large corporation and has to start at an entry level. These guys are fighting for recognition.
On how difficult it is to crack a roster:
Musselman: Absolutely, no question. There are several guys in here who were college conference players of the year, and even those guys are fighting to compete with some of these other guys, let alone NBA players. It's amazing the talent level, and how hard it is to even make a D-League team.
On his role in the tryout:
Musselman: I had the offensive station to day to put in the offensive stuff, but we've hired a lot of former players looking to get into coaching, and they've done a great job helping out: Connor Henry, Jerome Henderson and Mike Ratliff.