Erie BayHawks Tryouts Set for This Sunday, Sept. 14 in Orlando

John Denton Preparing for Tryout

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By John Denton
Sept. 14, 2014

ORLANDO -- The weather this weekend in Erie, Pa., is supposed to be in the low 60s, which would be downright heavenly for those of us sweating through our clothes and melting in another sweltering Central Florida summer.

I’ll try to keep those comfortable temperatures in mind when I’m bundling up in a toboggan, gloves and jacket and chipping ice off my windshield in the winter when I’m living in Western Pennsylvania.

Why, you might wonder, would someone dare to even consider leaving Orlando and being 40 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean for the shores of Lake Erie? Well, it’s because I’ll be playing for the Erie Bayhawks next season in the NBA Developmental League. Plus, I hear that Erie is nice this time of year.

Well, at least that’s the plan that I have going into Sunday’s D-League Open Tryouts at Barnett Park in Orlando. That’s right, yours truly with OrlandoMagic.com, is going to take part in the Magic’s open tryouts for their new D-League team on Sunday morning in Orlando. For 16 years, I’ve written about what NBA players could, would and should have done on the basketball court and now I get my chance to do it myself. Hey, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Well, in a few of words: Please pray for me and while you are at it put in a special request for my hamstrings, ACLs and whatever pride I have left by about 9:30 on Sunday morning – roughly a half-hour after the tryouts begin. While I’m sure my head will be saying ``make the team,’’ I’m guessing that my balky right knee and sore toe (boating accident in the aforementioned Atlantic Ocean) will be screaming, ``get the heck out of here!!!’’

While I am still somewhat delusional and think that I am a quasi-athlete because I play in a basketball rec league, compete in pick-up games at the park and sweat through tennis three days a week, this was not my idea to try out for the BayHawks. Nope, this was the brainchild of my boss and I was just dumb enough to play along because, well, I like being employed and getting paid to go to basketball games.

Again, I ask: What’s the worst thing that can go wrong? Wait, don’t answer that

Actually I’m very excited about the opportunity to try out for the BayHawks and here’s to hoping that all of the talented players out there who fell through the cracks or never got a shot at playing big-time basketball join me for Sunday morning’s tryouts. (All of the info, including the waiver forms and the $150 entry fee, is available on ErieBayHawks.com).

In many ways, this tryout opportunity is an absolute dream come true and to anyone out there who loves basketball as much as I do – my mother used to joke that I could hear a basketball bouncing anywhere within three city blocks of my house – I’m sure that they will also revel in the chance to perform before NBA and D-League scouts. And who knows? Maybe one of us will make a good impression on the scouts and get an invite to training camp with the BayHawks.

The Magic recently entered into a single-affiliate partnership with the BayHawks, meaning they will be able to utilize the franchise to cultivate some of the young players on the roster and on the radar. The Magic take the development of their players very seriously and that point was rammed home recently by the hiring of the highly respected Bill Peterson as the BayHawks head coach. Peterson is a tremendous teacher and will work to get players ready to play in the NBA someday.

I look forward to getting to know Coach Peterson, but not as one of his Bayhawks players following Sunday’s tryouts. Let’s just say, I’m not exactly checking out the housing market in the greater Erie area just yet.

A quick scouting report on my game: I’m tall (6-5), but I don’t block shots; I’m wide, but I don’t rebound well; I like to shoot, but I don’t make a lot of shots; and for the most part, I’m allergic to paint even though I’ve played center and power forward most of my life. As my high school coach used to say, ``Denton, you’re tall … and that’s all.’’

I’m just hoping the Magic/BayHawks coaches and scouts on hand at Sunday’s tryouts don’t have a problem with my aversion to contact, jumping or, you know, sprinting. Otherwise, I can be quite an asset to a team.

What my competition might be discounting, however, is my experience level. I swallowed my pride and did one of these gimmicky tryouts before when I was a young newspaper reporter in Jackson, Tenn. I actually went through the experience almost 20 years – and dozens of pounds ago – for the Jackson Jackals of the United States Basketball League in 1995.

What made the experience truly memorable was that I got to perform in front of my boyhood hero, former Memphis State All-American forward Keith Lee, who briefly served as the Jackals’ head coach. And Lee provided me with the thrill of a lifetime when I pump-faked a player, drove around him and scored and he said, ``Dude, you’re getting your (expletive) kicked by a sports writer!!!’’

I’ve had a tremendous summer in terms of getting myself somewhat back into shape. By working out daily, counting calories (product plug: MyFitnessPal) and denying myself those Double-Stuff Oreos at midnight, I’ve been able to shed 41 pounds since May 1. (Who knew there were workout facilities in all of these hotels???)

I’m stronger, have more energy and endurance than I have had in years and I can absolutely kick an Elliptical’s butt. Still, I fully expect to be doubled over, gasping for air and begging for mercy about 4 minutes into Sunday’s tryouts. My only hope is that I make it through the session in one piece and don’t have to consult Dr. Craig Mintzer of Jewett Orthopaedic afterward.

Regardless of what happens, trying out for a professional basketball team – especially one closely affiliated with the Magic – will be a dream come true. If you share that same dream of possibly getting a shot to play basketball at the professional level, join me at Barnett Park on Sunday morning for the Open Tryouts. Lastly, what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Just don’t go out and buy a winter jacket for Erie’s frigid winters just yet.

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