Once in a while teams get lucky enough to have a versatile role player on their squad who isn't afraid to do the "dirty work". For the Maine Red Claws, Chris Babb is that player. The 6-5 shooting guard is a major contributor in all aspects of the game, ranking among team leaders in points, rebounds, steals, assists, and three-pointers.
Babb's dominance dates back to his high school days at The Oakridge School in Arlington, Texas, where he led the Owls to a 26-3 record and district championship as a senior, averaging 31.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.2 assists, and recording a school-record 1,125 total points.
The Texas native spent two years at Penn State, before transferring to Iowa State. During the transfer process, Chris only took one visit to Iowa State to meet Coach Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg and Babb shared the same vision, so the decision was simple. "Being at Iowa State was a very positive experience for me. Itís a great town and we had a great home crowd and coach. We played in front of very supportive fans, a crowd of 15,000 every night," Babb said of his experience. He started all games that he appeared in for the Cyclones. He averaged 9.1 points and 3.4 rebounds as a senior, and his smart and scrappy play earned him Big 12 All-Defense honors.
After college, the Iowa State product participated in the 2013 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with the Phoenix Suns, earning an invite to Boston Celtics training camp. "I went in to training camp as an underdog with nothing to lose. They ended up really liking my game, and they appreciated what I brought to the table," Babb said of his time in Boston. He felt that the support he received from the veterans and coaching staff was extremely beneficial.
After spending the first two pre-season games on the bench, Chris could have been discouraged and frustrated, but instead remained focused with a positive attitude as he received continuous encouragement from Coach Brad Stevens.
Babb's time to shine finally came in a pre-season match-up against the New York Knicks. As the Celtics boarded the bus for the game, Coach Stevens called him aside and told him to be ready that night because he was going to get his shot. "When a head coach of an NBA organization tells you that, you have no choice but to be ready. So when they called my name with eight minutes left I went in there focused with nothing to lose." Chris entered the game with the Celtics trailing the Knicks by 20 points, and he displayed his readiness by providing a necessary spark. Although the Celtics lost, Babbís dramatic impact was certainly noted as he registered 12 points in only eight minutes, knocking down 4-5 three-pointers to pace the near comeback.
Chris is constantly looking for ways to improve his game. His hard-working ways developed from observing one of the top sharpshooters in NBA history. "I always looked up to Ray Allen," Babb said, "The clutch shots he hits, the game winners; heís always ready to shoot." He has also been inspired by Allenís work ethic, "He works so hard and is always thinking of preparation. Heís always in the gym working on his shot. People say heís the best all-time shooter, and he continues to work hard every day striving to be great."
Chris' hard work paid off immediately with the Red Claws, starting the season as sixth-man. When star guard Jermaine Taylor suffered a season-ending injury, Babb stepped into a starting role with very big shoes to fill. "It's was an adjustment," Babb said of the transition, "Iíve never been an offensive threat other than a shooter, and now Iím in the position where I need to handle the ball and attack a lot more. Itís been a good push; itís given me a lot to work on."
Babb found success in his new role in Maine, and he credits the fans for the motivation. "You canít even compare the fans we have here to any other team weíve played, they love it here," he happily stated. Chris remains versatile both on and off the court. After his playing career, he plans on giving back to the community by coaching basketball to inner city and troubled youth. He also expressed interest in financial investing, as well as teaming up with his father and uncles to manage their popular restaurant (Babb Bros. BBQ & Blues) in Dallas, Texas. "Thereís always going to be a time when the ball stops bouncing and you have to hang your shoes up and itís important to be well-rounded and think about other things you can be involved in," he said.
The day the ball stops bouncing for Chris seems to be far in the distance, as he received news on February 27 before a match-up with the Canton Charge that every player in the D-League dreams of. During his normal pre-game routine, Chris was summoned to Head Coach Mike Taylorís office. Finding this out of the norm, he made the walk down to meet with Taylor. Chris was notified by Coach Taylor that after tonightís game, he was no longer going to be a member of the Red Claws. Danny Ainge, the Celticsí President of Basketball Operations, had called Taylor minutes before to notify him that the Red Clawsí affiliate would be signing Babb to a 10-day contract. The next morning, he was on his way to Waltham, MA for practice with his new team. The 10-day contract turned into a second, and eventually, the Celtics signed Chris to a multi-year contract on March 21.
With his positive attitude and desire to be multi-faceted, Chris Babb is undoubtedly a success story to many. To Chris Babb, however, his journey to success has just begun.