Anthony Tolliver scours the Internet and newspapers daily looking for job opportunities. Only he’s not scanning the employment ads, but the sports section.
You see, Tolliver is the starting center for the NBA D-League’s Idaho Stampede. Scores are of no interest to him, only the transaction wire. Tolliver is looking to see which NBA players have been injured or released. He wants their spot and is playing hard to show he deserves it.
“I read as much as I can everyday to see what team is doing this and that. If a team’s looking for a shooter, I call my agent,” Tolliver said. “I’m on it every single day.”
Tolliver is one of the league’s Top 10 scorers this season, averaging more than 21 points a game. That contribution has helped Idaho remain at the top of the West Conference, one game behind the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
“In my estimation, Anthony Tolliver has been the MVP of the league this season,” Stampede head coach Robert MacKinnon said. “He not only scores, but he rebounds, he’s vocal, he’s the leader of our defensive system. He’s really locked in on everything we’re working on and he’s also the hardest working guy on our team.”
The last two seasons have been successful for Tolliver as compared to several other NBA D-League players. In December 2008, the 24-year-old was called up from the Austin Toros by their parent club, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs had Tolliver on their radar since the summer when he was a member of their Summer League team. Over 19 games, Tolliver tallied a 2.7 point and 2.2 rebound average. The Spurs waived him on Jan. 7, 2009.
Tolliver landed with the Iowa Energy, a team he spent time with one season earlier, but his stay was short. Fourteen days after his release from the Spurs, Tolliver agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Hornets.
“I had gotten pretty good feedback after I was released that something was going to happen,” he said. “I was told to stick around and that something would happen pretty quickly. I didn’t go into it having expectations, but had ideas that something would happen.”
The Creighton University standout didn’t appear in any games for the Hornets during his 10-day contract and again returned to the NBA D-League. While his phone didn’t ring the rest of the year, it did last December. On the other end was the Portland Trail Blazers, who had their eye on Tolliver for some time. After seeing his stats – 20 points and 10 rebounds a night – they were impressed enough to put a pen in his hand and have him sign on the dotted line. Although he got just two minutes of playing time, it was at least an opportunity.
“The fact that a team showed confidence in me and expressed interest in the future definitely gives me a lot more confidence,” Tolliver said. “It’s one of those things where I’m just waiting for the next opportunity.
“Definitely getting to be there a couple of weeks to experience NBA life again makes me more hungry, makes me want to work a lot harder and pray for the next opportunity to come soon.”
Tolliver says the Trail Blazers are going to keep close tabs on his game, and he could be back up there as soon as something opens up. In the meantime, he can’t wait for that to happen and knows that next opportunity may come with another team.
“It’s one of those things where if somebody else comes along and shows interest you take it,” Tolliver said. “I’m a free agent; I’m with the Idaho Stampede so I can go with any team that shows enough interest to sign me.”
All of this up and down could possibly take a toll on one’s self, but MacKinnon said Tolliver couldn’t have a better attitude about it.
“If anything it’s made him more determined,” MacKinnon said. “When you have a guy with that type of attitude it rubs off on other guys.”
Tolliver may have caught the eye of scouts at this week’s NBA D-League Showcase in Boise, Idaho. The four-day event allows players from the league’s 16 teams to put their talents on display. In the Stampede’s two Showcase games, Tolliver dropped 24 points, along with nine rebounds, in a win over the Springfield Armor and netted 19 and grabbed 14 boards in a 105-100 victory against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Tolliver believes the Showcase is a great way for him and his peers to get noticed.
“It’s a great thing for the guys who play the right way,” he said. “It gives them a shot when maybe their stats don’t say a lot about what their game is like, but the guys who really know how to play basketball really standout in this thing.”
Tolliver doesn’t know when that next opportunity may come along. No one can be sure. Until then, he’ll keep playing hard – and reading daily – to make sure he’s first in line when that time comes. His coach believes it could be very soon.
“I don’t expect to have him much longer because I think he’s an NBA player,” MacKinnon said.