The Austin Toros’ season kicked off last night with a road game against the Santa Cruz Warriors.
While the Toros had six players finishing in double figures, they couldn’t keep up with the Warriors and Seth Curry.
While the Toros started each half strong, the Warriors went on big runs and blew the game open in the second and fourth, including a 39 point second quarter.
Curry scored 36 points and dished out six assists. Dan Nwaelele, who was in training camp with the San Antonio Spurs and the Toros, added 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Warriors.
For the Toros, all eyes were on Josh Howard. Howard shot 54 percent from the field and knocked in a few three-pointers for 16 points in 31 minutes. The Toros were led in scoring by Tre Kelly and another player the Spurs had in camp, Courtney Fells, with 19 apiece. Kelly also added seven assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Eric Dawson, who spent some time with the Spurs last season, finish with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Former Texas Longhorn Myck Kabongo did not play.
The Toros are back in action in Santa Cruz against the Warriors tomorrow at 8 p.m. The game will be available streaming live on YouTube.
Watch the full Toros vs. Warriors game from last night below.
Josh Howard has had the kind of career you don’t often see in the NBA’s Development League.
He’s been an All-Star, was the second best player on a Finals team and, of course, played some intense playoff ball against the San Antonio Spurs.
After eight years with the Mavericks and through brief stints with the Wizards, Jazz and Timberwolves, Howard suffered two ACL injuries in less than three years.
Forced to rehab on his own, Howard is more determined than ever to prove he isn’t done yet. At 33 years old, he’s excited for the opportunity.
“I’m proving to myself that I can come back from another injury and getting the opportunity to play in the NBA to further my career is the thing I’m really enjoying. It’s going to be my eleventh year, and I’m right back in it like it’s my first,” said Howard.
The Spurs waived Howard a day after signing him, then invited him to the Austin Toros training camp. Howard knows San Antonio believes in him and is grateful that he gets to stay in a Texas.
“It speaks a lot, what they think about me and what I think about them for them to continue to give me the opportunity; the last two years they actually wanted me to come down and play for them and unfortunately I didn’t take that chance but for them to still consider me one of the top players out there, and I still know they’re one of the top organizations, and to get this opportunity, it’s been a great experience for me,” Howard said.
“Being at the Mavericks organization for the last ten years up in Dallas and to get this opportunity to live in Austin as well, its another great experience to enjoy Texas.”
On whether he would like to eventually retire with the Mavs, Howard wouldn’t speculate.
“I just hope to get back to the NBA, no matter what team it is. My work ethic, my leadership, the things that I do out on the court and off the court I hope will get me back in the NBA.”
Howard clearly knows what it takes to be an NBA player and has the ability to be one. The only question is his health. Can his body make it through an entire season without breaking down?
Howard will look to answer that test with game one of the season on November 22 on the road against the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Our own Bill Simpson went to Cedar Park earlier this afternoon to cover Austin Toros Media Day for Toros Nation.
He’ll have posts on Josh Howard and coach Ken McDonald as well as some videos tomorrow, but for now, take a look inside media day from several tweets, quotes and photos from media day via Bill’s twitter stream.
Before November 1, the Austin Toros had just one player over 6–8 on their roster.
Then they got a whole lot bigger.
With the 12th overall pick, the Toros selected Kyle Hunt, a 6–9 forward who most recently played in Uruguay for Club Atletico Olimpia Montevideo. In 17 games he averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and one steal per game on 58.7% shooting.
Before playing professional ball Hunt graduated from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma averaging 17.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
At 228 pounds, Hunt can back down most power forwards deep into the lane for an easy score. His strength allows him to easily finish at the rim and be active on the boards, particularly rebounding his own missed shot.
His quick hands allow him to catch any pass in the post and also quickly swat away shots on the other end of the floor.
This is a smart pick for a team that needs to improve their size, rebounding numbers and have some muscle in the paint, but the Toros didn’t stop there.
In the third round they selected Chief Kickingstallionsims with the 12th pick.
As if his name wasn’t enough reason to draft him, he is listed at 7-1, 265 pounds.
Last season the seven-footer played internationally for BC Timba Timisoara, averaging 7.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 20.1 minutes per game. After transferring from Stetson University, he played collegiately at Alabama State for two years with underwhelming stats (8 ppg, 5 rpg).
The other big men drafted were Keith Chamberlain in the fourth round, 6-9, and Blake Thompson in the seventh round, 7-0.
The Toros not only added these four big men, but also two guards and a swingman.
CameronBennerman, a guard out of NC State, was chosen in the second round.
Listed at 6–4, he has played in Italy, Spain, Argentina, Turkey and Poland. The journeyman also had stints with the Phoenix Suns in 2007 and the D-League in 2009. Last season he averaged 11.2 points per game on 52% field goal shooting in Turkey.
MichaelSturns (6-5, 210, Holy Family) and YanMoukoury (6-7, 225, Brewton Parker) were taken in the fifth and sixth round, respectively.
Justin Dentmon continued to dominate in the paint Friday night as he led all in scoring with 31 points. Dentmon’s efforts gave the Toros the win over the Texas Legends, his former team, 108-93.
“We had a much better urgency tonight,” said Coach Brad Jones.
The intensity of the game was much higher than the night before. Maybe it was the crowd. Maybe it was because it was Friday night. Maybe it was because both Greg Ostertag (7 pts, 7 rebs) and Yi Jianlian (17 pts, 11 rebs) were in attendance for the Legends.
“Those guys are good. They’re in the NBA for a reason,” said Jones.
Size was a disadvantage for the Toros as they were going against three 7-footers. Yi’s height is questionable as ESPN’s Jeff Caplan has listed him at 6-10, last night’s roster 7-0 and Del Harris said he was 7-1. Regardless of how tall he actually is, the Toros were still able to drive to the basket as they added 52 points in the paint.
In his second game on assignment from the Spurs, Cory Joseph, added 10 points and four assists for the Toros. Joseph notched an extra six minutes in tonight’s game.
“He looked like a first round draft pick tonight,” said Jones.
The Toros are hitting the road for a five game roadtrip, including two at the D-League Showcase. With the wide variety of talent on the league-leading Toros it wouldn’t be a shock if after the road trip the Toros lose a player or two to overseas teams. Last season Eric Dawson left the Toros after attending the Showcase for Korea’s KCC Egis
Dawson led all in rebounds (12) and added 18 points.
“I’m very happy we won the game as we did not play the typical Toros game,” Toros coach Brad Jones said.
The Toros (10-3) provided another win at home for their fans as they beat the Maine Red Claws (4-11) on Thursday night. Currently sitting on top of the league standings, it was the team’s fifth win in a row.
Consistency at the line (24-28) was key in the 109-103 victory.
Both teams exchanged the lead 15 times throughout the night. The Red Claws gained their largest lead of the night after a 12-1 run to start the second quarter. A pair of Terrance Woodbury jumpers cut the lead and gave the Toros the confidence boost they needed. By halftime the Toros had regained the lead, 54-51.
“There were a lot of times tonight where we couldn’t get to the right spot whether it was offensively or defensively.”
The teams kept it close in the second half with the Toros holding the lead the entire half. Austin’s nine point lead dwindled in the fourth quarter. The lack of Toros defense made it a one possession game multiple times in the final minutes of the game. Lance Thomas’ dunk with 46 seconds remaining sealed the win.
Thomas, who was recently cut from the New Orleans Hornets, hadn’t played under Jones for close to a month. It was hardly noticeable as Thomas added 18 points (7-8) and regained his starting spot on the roster. The return of Thomas marks four Toros players that have returned in the past few weeks from NBA training camp. The only one remaining in the NBA is long-shot Squeaky Johnson (Hornets).
Thursday night was supposed to be about the addition of the youngest and highest paid guy on the team, Cory Joseph. The 2011 first round NBA draft pick was assigned by the Spurs earlier this week.
“Cory had some good moments tonight; had some bad moments tonight,” said Jones. “He should be a sophomore in college and he hasn’t played much pro basketball.”
Joseph got off to a slow start, adding only one point in the first half. As the game progressed the starter found his rhythm at the charity stripe adding 7 of his 11 points.
It’s likely that the former Longhorn will remain a Toro for the next few weeks as he could benefit from playing time as well as further development of the Spurs system.
Justin Dentmon led the team with 24 points and four assist. Eric Dawson was the only player to record a double-double (12 pts, 10 rebs). Leo Lyons led the bench with 15 points.
The Toros play host to the Texas Legends tonight at the Cedar Park Center.
Many expected former Phoenix Suns forward Alando Tucker to be headed to the Capitol city with the Austin Toros’ second overall pick in the 2011 D-League Draft.
Just before draft night started, the Toros decided to shake things up, by hipping the rights to the second pick to the Texas Legends in return for guard Justin Dentmon.
Dentmon, a 6-foot guard out of Washington. averaged 19.1 points, four assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game for the Legends last season.
While Dentmon declined a bit with fewer minutes in the playoffs, he shined in the final two regular season games against the Toros, which obviously had a lasting impact. In 39 minutes, the former Mavericks prospect finished the game with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals as he slashed through the Toros defense and Toros guards had troubles staying in front of him.
I’m not too surprised about the trade considering Dentmon gives the Toros added scoring and some depth at the guard positions. The Toros front court is also jam-packed with players that can play small forward, including Lance Thomas, Leo Lyons and Kevin Palmer. The addition of Tucker, while a good prospect for the Spurs, would likely stunt the growth and development of the Toros’ young forwards.
Here’s a rundown of some of the Toros’ other draft night selections.
• Tristan Thompson
With their next pick in the draft, the Toros selected Tristan Thompson, a 6-5 guard from North Texas, not to be confused with the former Longhorns center.
Thompson played all four years at North Texas, averaging 18 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Thompson is primarily regarded as a high-percentage shooter, finishing his senior season with a career high from the field (.459) and from beyond the arch (.418).
His best game of the season came late in the season against Florida Atlantic. He shot 60 percent from the field, made both of his three-pointers and got to the line 20 times, finishing the game with 36 points. Thompson also led the Mean Green in big wins over Texas Tech and LSU.
Thompson could see some time behind Aubrey Coleman at shooting guard.
• Omar Reed
In the third round, the Toros picked up Omar Reed, formerly of Bluefield College.
The 6-6 swingman is yet another scorer, but he plays big for his size. In his last season at Bluefield, Reed averaged 24 points and nine rebounds per game.
Reed is comfortable playing inside and backing his man down. On the wing, he has the speed and athleticism to drive to the rim. While he can shoot the outside shot, his shot selection is suspect.
He’ll be able to play at either shooting guard or small forward for the Toros, but his best bet is competing for minutes at shooting guard.
• The Rest
The Toros also selected guard Solomon Bozeman (6-1, 175 Arkansas-Little Rock), guard Myles McKay (6-4, 195 Wisconsin-Whitewater), forward Dan Vandervieren (6-10, 265 Concordia), guard James Lewis (6-3, 200 Fresno Pacific) and forward Jerel Hastings (6-5, 215 Albany).
With so many guards, that’ll leave several players competing for a few spots. They’ll have the opportunity to battle it out when training camp starts in Austin on November 14.
With the 2011 NBA D-League draft next month, teams have begun to invite former players to training camp. The Austin Toros invited Lance Thomas and Leo Lyons, who are both currently at Pan-Am training camp. Noticeably absent from the invite list is veteran forward Michael Joiner. Joiner, who spent the past two seasons with the Austin Toros, played overseas this summer and returned home knowing that his basketball career was coming to an end.
“At this time in my life I’m at a crossroad” said Joiner. “Ever since I came back from China I’m not playing. I didn’t have the passion or drive to want to play.”
Joiner will be turning 30 later this month and is beginning to transition in to corporate America.
“I’ve been on the hunt fixing my resume and going to job fairs.”
The Florida State alum has a few things going for him that many who are unemployed don’t have the luxury of having: a bank account stocked with money from an overseas contract and a pair of degrees – Bachelors and Masters – that are ready to be put to use. Both degrees were acquired via scholarships. Due to the partnership between the D-League and University of Phoenix online Joiner was able to receive his Master in Business Administration specialization in Human Resource Management while playing basketball.
The realization of moving on in life and past the D-League is easily summed up by Joiner, “Eventually all of us have to get a job and find another source of income.”
Though Joiner knew last season was going to be his final season with the Toros he still enjoyed the opportunity that they gave him. Often seen on the bench in the second half of the season, Joiner was still able to bond with his teammates and this off-season was able to provide them advice as to what they should do with their basketball careers.
These talks led to Lyons and Thomas returning to the Toros this season.
“That’s my wolfpack and this is a good situation for them… It’s a chance for them to show what they worked on all summer.”
Lyons, 24, and Thomas, 23 are in their basketball prime and have the opportunity to stand out and be noticed by a scout in the D-League. Though currently NBA Call-ups are non-existent due to the NBA lockout, the opportunity to receive a lucrative contract overseas is still possible.
So while the future looks bright for two of the Toros’ youngest stars, it’s not all doom and gloom for Joiner. Aside from having a respectable pro basketball career under his belt, he is thankful to the D-League for providing the opportunity to be more than just a former player. Now Joiner leaves the sport with two degrees listed on his curriculum vitae that are much more impressive than any double-double he totaled throughout his basketball career.