For many players at the NBA Summer League, basketball has or will take them to destinations they might never have imagined. Very few ever get the chance – even briefly – to experience their journeys coming full circle in any sort of way.
Hornets’ Summer League point guard Ty-Shon Alexander is one of the lucky ones. He grew up in Charlotte and attended Concord High School and Northside Christian Academy before playing his final two prep seasons at national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
“It feels different,” said Alexander earlier last week. “Obviously, Charlotte is a hometown. I grew up when the Charlotte Hornets were first at the old Coliseum, then became the Bobcats and now they’re the Hornets again. It has been fun representing my hometown, having this jersey on and playing in Summer League for the Hornets.”
While living in the Queen City, Alexander played AAU ball for a former NBA point guard who knows a thing or two about suiting up for the local squad. Jeff McInnis – his coach on Team Charlotte – attended West Charlotte High School (and Oak Hill, for that matter) and the University of North Carolina, then went on to play 11 NBA seasons, the final two of which were with the Charlotte Bobcats from 2006-08.
Alexander went undrafted in 2020 following a three-year collegiate career at Creighton and eventually signed a two-way deal with the Phoenix Suns. He played sparingly for the then-Western Conference champions and eventually spent his second professional season in Italy, where he split time between Virtus Bologna and Pallacanestro Trieste.
“It wasn’t too bad at all,” he recalled, when asked about his time overseas. “I got a chance to learn from a couple of [former NBA] vets in Marco Belinelli and Miloš Teodosić, play with some fun teammates and for a great coach [in Sergio Scariolo], who coached the Spanish National Team. It was fun to learn, develop and see something new, too. We ended up winning the EuroCup to get to the EuroLeague next year.”
He added, “There were a lot of things I could have done better, especially with going out there and just playing. COVID was still kind of high over there, so the arenas were limited to a certain number of people. As soon as it went away some, the environment ended up getting crazier and crazier. People lighting fires off in the stands, bringing in drum sets and whistles, stuff you just can’t do here in the United States.”
The now 24-year-old came off the bench in each of the Hornets’ five Summer League contests, posting averages of 8.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals in 21.8 minutes, although shot just under 30% from the field. He was instrumental in the team’s late comeback win over the Lakers on July 17, notching 22 points – six in the final minute of regulation – and then assisting on JT Thor’s game-winning sudden-death 3-pointer in double overtime.
“It was fun to contribute, have the ball in my hands and create for others and for myself,” he said. “It’s something I’m still learning day by day. I’ve grown up a lot, especially coming back from Italy and learning about my first two years playing basketball. There were a lot of things that I worked on and developed. I’m just going to keep working and have that same attitude as far as keeping it going.” Like many others after Summer League concludes, where Alexander goes from here is still to be determined. Maybe he gets invited to an NBA training camp somewhere, winds up on a G League team or heads back to Europe. Regardless of how things play out, Alexander got the rare opportunity to represent his hometown purple and teal in an NBA-sanctioned game, something that no matter what, he can always look back fondly on.