For players like Xavier Sneed and Kobi Simmons, competing for the NBA G League’s Greensboro Swarm is all about taking advantage of their daily opportunities and soaking up as much knowledge as they can. And if everything goes right, maybe, just maybe, an NBA team will call to offer a coveted roster spot.
Last week, the Charlotte Hornets made that call to the 6’5” defensive wing Sneed to extend a 10-day deal, which has since been converted to a two-way contract. A few days later, Simmons – a 6’5” point guard who recently became the Swarm’s all-time leading scorer – received the call and a two-way contract, leading to a multi-year deal. Both players have spent time in the NBA before, but that certainly didn’t dampen any of their excitement to finish out the season in Charlotte.
“Right after our last game in Greensboro, I was signing autographs for the fans and that was when I got the call,” said Sneed. “It was [Hornets President of Basketball Operations and General Manager] Mitch [Kupchak], who said I’ve been playing well and liked what I’ve been doing. It’s a great feeling knowing my hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Just come up here, get an opportunity and help us win a couple ball games.”
Added Simmons, “Our season just ended, and I was at the house just getting some stuff together getting ready to leave. I got the call and that’s pretty much it. I was ecstatic, hyped and happy, of course. I was just ready to get it going. It’s dope and a credit to what I’ve been doing and how I’ve been approaching our games down in the G League. Since I’ve been here [in Charlotte], it’s been nothing but love, and I look forward to keeping it rolling.”
Undrafted out of Kansas State in 2020, Sneed spent his first season-and-a-half of pro basketball with the Swarm, then made nine NBA appearances with Memphis and Utah last year before returning to Greensboro. As for the former-Arizona Wildcat Simmons, he was also undrafted in 2017 and racked up 37 games as a two-way player for Memphis his rookie season. After that, he spent one season with the G League’s Canton Charge, two years in Greensboro, had a two-month stint in Poland and then came back to the Gate City.
“It’s a testament to the work they’ve put in,” said Greensboro Swarm Head Coach Jordan Surenkamp. “What makes Kobi and X’s situation special is that they’re both multi-year guys within our organization. They’ve been able to develop and now getting the reward for all their hard work and growth, it’s just exciting. They both are really deserving of it. They were leaders for our team in Greensboro all year. They were about the right things. They try to play the right way. Guys that I could trust and rely on. It’s just really cool to have them here and around every day and making the most of their opportunities.”
Injuries have unfortunately been a common occurrence for the Hornets in their 2022-23 campaign, especially towards the tail end of the schedule here. The need for healthy bodies who know the system was a significant factor in bringing Sneed and Simmons on board, but opportunity is opportunity no matter how it comes about. The G League is absolutely stacked with talented players, all of whom are hungry for a crack at an NBA job, no matter the circumstances. Control what you can control and hopefully, things will break the right way.
“There’s only something like 450 spots and this is the best league in the world,” added Surenkamp. “Regardless of the outcome of a season or the circumstances involved, to make it onto an NBA roster regardless of even minutes played and on top of that, to get an opportunity to play, it’s special. Being in the G League the last two years as a Head Coach, the talent level is impressive. Kris Dunn, who was the fifth overall pick [in 2016], was playing off the bench for Capital City at the beginning of the year. Now, he’s playing normal rotation minutes for the Jazz.”
“There’s a lot of talented basketball players in this world who will never get a chance to dress up for an NBA team, sit on the sidelines for a game, go through a walkthrough or play minutes, stuff like that. You never want to see injuries and you absolutely hate the impact that that’s had on our season here in Charlotte, but what it does do is gives guys opportunities that may not necessarily always get them. They have a chance to prove that they belong and prove that the development and work that they’ve put in can be rewarded and that they deserve to be on a normal roster for a full 82-game season.”
Sneed has been in the rotation for the past three games, posting averages of 5.0 points on 57.1% shooting and 1.3 assists, while knocking down 3-of-5 total 3-point attempts. Simmons tallied five points and one assist in just under 12 minutes in Tuesday’s home loss to Toronto, his first significant action since joining the Hornets. Not only have Sneed and Simmons both been in the organization for quite some time, but as a bonus, they’ve also previously played with nearly of Charlotte’s current rotational players down in Greensboro.
Stated Sneed, “Me being here with this group of guys that I got to know for a couple preseasons now, knowing the coaching staff and the system well, I feel a little bit more comfortable and calmer. I know where those guys like to get the ball. I know how they’re thinking on the court. So, we’re all just gelling and meshing. I know I was born to do this. I’m just in my element.”
“I’ve been in the organization already, so I know some of the schemes and what we’ve been doing,” added Simmons. “Just already knowing a couple of the guys, I feel like I fit right in. I think it’s real dope. It shows that we all put in hard work to get to where we are and get the opportunity that we’re getting. I’m just excited for those guys and ready to keep it going.”
Along with Sneed and Simmons, several more former-G League players have recently been called up teams, many of whom are searching for that diamond in the rough. Maybe this won’t be the last we see some of them on an NBA hardwood. After all, it takes just one opportunity to get the ball rolling.