Legends Warm Up For Season
By: Bobby Karalla --- @BobbyKaralla
The Texas Legends, presented by Veracruz (visit Veracruz.mx), kick off the Preseason Jamboree today at 10:30 a.m. against the Tulsa 66ers at the IAD in Carrollton.
The Legends will play four games during the next two days, with the roster divided into two smaller teams. Texas will also play at 4:00 today and 10:30 and 4:00 tomorrow. All D-League teams must cut their roster down to 10 men before the season gets underway, so the event will give Legends coaches the chance to see the current roster of 18 in action before making the difficult choice to send players home.
Among the new faces on the team is Mickey McConnell, a point guard who spent time with the Dallas Mavericks during the NBA team’s preseason in October, as did fellow Legend Devin Ebanks. McConnell, the 2011 WCC Player of the Year with St. Mary’s, said his time with the Mavericks helped him grow accustomed to professional basketball in the U.S. – he’s spent the last two years playing overseas – and to the speed of pro ball.
The Mavericks have called up several Legends players during the past few seasons, notably last year’s call-ups of returning Legend Chris Douglas-Roberts, point guard Mike James, who has since signed with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and Justin Dentmon, who has earned 3 NBA Call ups in his career. McConnell’s time with the Mavericks in the preseason combined with the injury issues at the point guard position Dallas is facing might open the door for McConnell to be called up himself, should his play continue to improve. McConnell, though, isn’t looking too far ahead.
“It’s a great opportunity to be this close to an NBA team, but my focus is on being here with the Legends and playing as well as I can,” he said. “I know if I play well, stuff will take care of itself.”
Another Legends hopeful includes Adrick McKinney, a tryout who led TCU in rebounding last season at 6.4 boards per game. McKinney said Legends coach Eduardo Najera has him working on rebounding – his strength – and defense. Essentially, Najera is asking McKinney with the same grit the coach did while he was in the NBA.
“He was a scrappy player,” McKinney said. “He did all the little stuff. That’s what I’m doing, just trying to get better.”
McKinney, who grew up in Fort Worth, is savoring the opportunity to play pro ball in his hometown.
“This is home for me, the DFW area,” he said. “I’m from Fort Worth, born and raised. That’s very exciting. I’d love to do that. That’s my ultimate goal. That’s why I work hard every day, to get to the NBA level. “
One player Legends fans will recognize is Ramon Dyer, who played with the team during the 2011-12 season, averaging 8.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The forward played overseas in Israel and Finland last year before returning to the Legends, whose roster he considers the best in the league.
“This’ll be my third year (in the D-League),” he said. “I’d say of all the teams, this is the best opportunity – they’ve got a great staff.”
Dyer isn’t just blowing smoke, either. Along with Douglas-Roberts, returning Legends include Melvin Ely and Sean Singletary, and the team recently acquired Terrel Harris via trade. Harris was on the Miami Heat’s title-winning team in 2012.
Booker Woodfox, who averaged nearly 13 points per game in his two seasons with the Legends, is also returning this season after spending a year in Lithuania.
There are faces familiar and new, and now it’s time to see how the pieces fit together. Today’s the first chance to catch a glimpse at this year’s collection of talent.