Video: Cedar Park Center transformation

The Cedar Park Center is not only home to the Austin Toros, it also hosts the Texas Stars AHL hockey team, and on some days, it plays host to both teams.

On January 1, the Toros played an afternoon game, followed by a Stars game that same night.

Here’s a video (courtesy of the Stars) showing the quick transformation from Toros home court to the Stars’ rink.

Toros stomp 66ers for second time in a week

The Austin Toros gained their second double-digit win, 94-80, over the Tulsa 66ers at the Cedar Park Center last night. It was the third time these teams had faced off against each other all season, and even more interesting in the past week.

The home team jumped out to an early lead after the first quarter, 23-16, despite losing new player Keith Clark to what looked like a wrist injury and was later pronounced a shoulder injury. After logging 2:41 in his first game of the season Clark left for the locker room and returned to the bench later in the game with an ice pack and what could only be described as a make do ace bandage sling. If the injury is capable of keeping Clark on the bench for several games it could be assumed that Clark could be cut from the team to make room for a new player. However, due to NBA training camp starting tomorrow, and the possibility of five Toros players being invited to training camp (more on that in a minute) it’s in the Toros best interest to hold on to Clark.

Tulsa outscored the Toros in the second quarter and had the opportunity to go in to halftime with a two-point lead. A hard foul committed by Ryan Reid (12 points, 12 rebounds) at the buzzer sent Terrance Woodbury to the line. Woodbury closed the gap with the Toros trailing 45-44.

Back from the half the Toros faced another injury. With 9:15 remaining in the third center Luke Zeller suffered a broken nose. His two points weren’t missed as the Toros began to pull away in the third compliments of their strong defense. The team limited Tulsa to 12 points and stretched their lead to double-digits, 67-57.

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Green joins Toros for double OT loss; Jones looks back on first season

The Austin Toros (22-28) managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a double-overtime offensive showcase Saturday night, capping off an up-and-down season. Texas pulled away the second overtime, winning 134-128.

“You’ve got to give Texas some credit because we kind of had the game in control,” head coach Brad Jones said. “We missed some free throws and they made some tough three pointers, but you’ve got to give them the credit for not quitting. But at the same time, we gave them some life by missing some free throws and having turnovers down the stretch.”

The Legends had everything to play for. A win meant they were in the playoffs, while a loss ended their season. The Toros had nothing riding on this one in terms of the postseason, yet they found themselves up 108-100 with about a minute left. That’s when the wheels came off.

Booker Woodfox made a three on the Legends next possession. Then, Texas trapped the Toros and came up with a steal and found Justin Dentmon open for a trifecta to make it 109-108 Toros with 15 seconds left.

After four clutch Aubrey Coleman free throws, the score was 113-110 with less than 10 seconds left. That’s when Rashad McCants saved the Legends season by hitting a three-pointer to tie the game with four seconds left. McCants had 28 points on the night.

Leo Lyons’ potential game-winner rimmed out, and Marcus Cousin could not control the tip in and this one was headed for an unexpected overtime period.

The extra period mirrored the end of regulation for the Toros. When Toro-for-a-day Danny Green (on loan from the Spurs) knocked down an open three, Austin was leading 118-113 with 1:40 left.

A 5-0 Legends run tied it at 118, before Coleman, who led the Toros with 30 points, made a three. That put Austin up 121-118 with nine seconds left. That’s when lightning struck again. Woodfox, who only played ten minutes on the night, made his second cold-blooded three of the game with two seconds left, tying the score.

Squeaky Johnson’s three at the buzzer looked good out of his hand, but hit the front of the rim, sending it into double overtime. This was the third home game to go into double-overtime this season, and second against the Legends.

Austin got up 127-123 on a Johnson three, but then the Joe Alexander show resumed. Alexander was two for two from the field and three for three from the foul line in the second overtime.

Sean Williams’ free throws with ten seconds left put his team up by four with ten seconds left and the Toros could not answer. Williams had 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Alexander led all scorers and rebounders with 36 and 15.

Given the turnover in the D-League, Jones’ post game talk with his players was also his farewell speech to many of them.

“I told them that the goal in this league, whether you win a championship or not is we make them feel like they’ve gotten better,” he said. “That’s the goal of our staff. Everyday we come to work trying to help them get better, while at the same time winning some games. Hopefully they feel that way. We didn’t meet all of our team goals, but hopefully they met some of their individual goals.”

One player that already has a taste of the NBA is Green. On Saturday, Green was one of six Toros in double figures, with 19 points and seven rebounds.

“It was an exciting game for the fans,” Green said. “But if you’re a Toro, you’re pretty disappointed because we had the game won multiple times at the end, but we couldn’t just close out.”

Even though Green had virtually no time to practice and get acclimated with his team, he felt pretty comfortable.

“Given the short notice, I felt like things clicked pretty well,” he said. “I’m not the type of guy to come in and just put up a bunch of shots and force the issue. I know they have some things going here. So I just wanted to keep their chemistry flowing and play a small role and just knock down open shots for them and help them on defense hopefully.

“If they need me to do something, then yeah, but tonight, they really didn’t need that. They have some guards that can get in the paint and make some things happen.”

Green will now look to help the parent club down the stretch run as they try to snap their losing skid.

“I believe I’m going back to the Spurs tonight, we play Phoenix tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens from there,” he said. “Hopefully we can break the losing streak, so we’ll see what goes on. (The big guys) are all healthy and we’re playing better.”

Lance Thomas, who suffered a seizure on court last Saturday, was courtside cheering on his teammates.

“I feel fine,” Thomas said. “The hit I took was pretty bad at the moment with what happened, but I feel fine now. I have to wait a little bit until I have clearance from the doctors. From the standpoint of day-to-day from when it happened, I feel fine.”

Thomas said once he receives doctor’s permission to resume full-contact basketball, he will decide his next basketball move. He hates having to sit out and said this one was especially tough to watch.

“I hate watching period,” Thomas said. “Just to watch a nail biter like that, it was tough, especially when you want to get out there and help. I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning of the season, so it’s hard to watch my guys out there without me.”

Nevertheless, he was proud of his guys.

“I thought they left it on the floor,” he said. “I think there were plays where the other team did better than we did, and there were plays when we had to tough it out, but there was no question of our effort.”

Thomas is one of the Toros young up-and-comers with dreams of playing in the NBA. Jones would love to see all his guys fulfill their professional aspirations.

“I hope all these guys end up in the NBA or oversees making 50 grand a month, so hopefully none of them are back because they’re all making a gazillion dollars,” Jones said. “Having said that, I really like this group we have right now and obviously if it fit in their career path, then we would love to have them come back.”

Jones, who was talking with Spurs GM R.C. Buford and VP of Basketball Operations Danny Ferry after the game outside the locker room, will take the next few days to do some exit interviews and start planning for the summer.

“We’ll see what the Spurs want from us and what we have to do as a staff,” Jones said.

Overall, Jones said his first season with the Toros was both fun and disappointing.

“At times (I had fun),” Jones said. “Every year, there is a challenge. It was a little bit more of a challenge this year with all the roster turnover. Not being able to fulfill the team goals of winning more, I’m very disappointed about, but in the midst of all the fight is a lot of fun. Sometimes you just don’t get the outcome you desire.”

Toros’ Cousin discusses time with Jazz

Austin Toros center Marcus Cousin recently spent some time with the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

He was brought into Utah on a 10-day contract but was not offered another 10-day contract and returned to Austin to play with the Toros.

Getty Images

I had the opportunity to speak with Cousin on Saturday afternoon after the Toros lost to the Idaho Stampede.

When I asked Cousin how his 10-days in Utah were, he chuckled about only being there for 10 days. Cousin then told me that he learned a lot from the coaching staff and Jazz players. He used the words “good experience” in describing his short stint.

When I asked him how it was to battle the likes of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, he said it was great to learn from them. He also said he learned a lot from Jefferson in particular.

Cousin continues to produce in the D-League as he scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the loss Saturday.

Cousin has two aspirations to look forward to these next two weeks: 1) Get signed to an NBA team for the remainder of the season and 2) continue to help the Toros team earn a spot in the D-League playoffs and contend for Austin’s first D-League championship.

Optimism is still an option for Cousin.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @24writer | Email Paul at:  paul@projectspurs.com

Stampede deal Toros another playoff chase setback

By Travis Atkins, Paul Garcia, Michael De Leon

The Austin Toros gave a spirited effort, but came up short 89-85 against the Idaho Stampede in an intense, playoff-like game.

“They made their shots in the paint and we missed ours right there at the end,” head coach Brad Jones said. “I thought it was a good game. We couldn’t make shots; we shot 37 percent from the field. Some of that was our doing, some was we just weren’t in a very good rhythm offensively.”

The Toros came in knowing they would make the playoffs if they won the rest of their games. The Idaho Stampede had a lot to play for also, as only half a game separated the two teams.

All of that was put into perspective very quickly in the second quarter though. With 9:38 remaining in the half, Lance Thomas had a seizure on the court after going up for a rebound and getting hit in the head.

The Cedar Park Center was silent as medical personnel put him on a stretcher and wheeled Thomas off the court. Thomas lifted his head and appeared alert as he left.

“Obviously it was a very, very scary thing,” Jones said. “I’ve been around people that have had seizures before and none of them are ever nice to be around. That one, just the way it happened, such a big, strong young athlete, that was scary. The good news is he is at the hospital and he’s fully aware now.”

The 6-8 rookie forward out of Duke does not have a history of seizures, according to Jones.

Thomas got the Toros on the board with a mid-range jump shot on Austin’s first possession. That two-point lead would be their biggest of the first half though.

Stampede guard Cedric Jackson got to the rim early and often. He had 17 of his game-high 25 in the first half.

Early in the second quarter, right before the Thomas injury, Jackson drove for a layup and was fouled. The three-point play gave the Stampede its biggest lead at the time, 29-17.

All too often missed Toros shots turned into fast break buckets for Idaho. After the Toros climbed back into it at 37-38, they went cold from the field and the Stampede capitalized on the long rebounds by running the floor and scoring in transition.

Idaho closed the half on an 11-2 run. Austin shot just 31.8 percent in the first two quarters.

Leo Lyons, the Toros’ engine on offense as of late, did not score in his 17 first-half minutes, missing all four of his shot attempts.

Antoine Walker began the third quarter by hitting a three pointer as the Stampede went up 52 to 39. The Toros then went on a 7-0 run to make it 52 to 46.

Aubrey Coleman had four straight points: he got a steal and finished with a crowd-roaring dunk, then came off and hit a pull up jumper.

Late in the third quarter, Leo Lyons hit a deep 25-foot three pointer to spark a 5-2 Toros run and cut the game to 59 to 62.

The Toros drew within one point with one minute remaining as they trailed 63 to 64; they followed by allowing Stampede forward Carlos Wheeler to convert an and-1 opportunity.

At the end of the third quarter, the Toros trailed the Stampede 65 to 66, they were led by Lyons who bounced back with 11 points in the quarter.

The Stampede went on an 8-0 run shortly after. With the Toros down by five points midway through the fourth, they turned to Lyons and Aubrey Coleman to make up the deficit. Marcus Cousin put an exclamation point on the Toros’ comeback with a slam dunk to tie the game 80-80 with 3:17 left in the game.

Both teams went back and forth, but the Toros missed their shots and the Stampede made their final two buckets with time running out.

Lyons and Palmer led the Toros with 15 points apiece while former Spur Cedric Jackson led the Stampede with 25 points. Antoine Walker chipped in with 18.

The Toros will play the Stampeded again at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Thomas suffers seizure during Stampede game

In what was a very scary moment here at the Cedar Park Center, after running back on offense during the second quarter, Toros forward Lance Thomas had what appeared to be an episode of an epileptic seizure.

We have not found any history of seizures in his basketball history, but we’ll have more information after the game and wish him a speedy recovery.

UPDATE:

Thomas is going much better and even joked about getting back into the game.  Keep it here as more details are forthcoming.

Video recap: Austin Toros vs. Iowa Energy

Toros Fall to the Vipers on the Road, 118-103

With seven games remaining in the final two weeks of the regular season, the Austin Toros (19-24) needed this road win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (30-14).

On the bubble for the playoffs, the Toros had recently started to make a last-minute surge for playoffs. The Vipers victory will make it that much harder for the team to pass the Texas Legends and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants for the eighth seed.

Kyle Weaver, who led the Toros with 24 points, gave the team a 25-23 lead at the end of the first quarter with a 3-point jumper. With nine lead changes in the second quarter alone, both teams traded buckets and kept the game within four points. At the half the game was tied at 49.

In the third quarter the Vipers began to pull away, outscoring the Toros 37-21, as the Toros couldn’t contain the Vipers from beyond the arc. Jerel McNeal’s long shot, the Vipers sixth of the quarter, stretched the home team’s lead heading in to the fourth, 86-70. McNeal scored 12 of his 18 points in the third quarter.

Their lead continued in the fourth as the Toros defense ran out of gas. Mouhammad Faye’s pair of freebies with 10:26 remaining in the game stretched the Vipers lead to 21, the largest of the night. Seconds later Leo Lyons jump started a Toros 11-2 run. It was not enough as the Vipers regrouped and continued to score in the paint. The Vipers win still gave the Toros the advantage on the season series, 5-4.

The Toros had five players score in double figures. The bench combined for 60 of the Toros 103 points. With the loss, Austin still remains out of the final spot for the D-League playoffs.

The team heads to Tulsa on Tuesday before returning home for a three-game home stand.

Alumnus Watch: Keith Langford

Former Austin Toros player (2007-2008) Keith Langford seems to have survived budget cuts overseas and could be signing a 4-year deal with BC Khimky Moscow:

The whole of European basketball is in financial crisis, even the richest clubs are reducing their budgets for the coming seasons. But the Russians of Khimky are definitely going against the current trend as it has just extended, for no less than four years, the contract of Keith Langford (born in Fort Worth, 1983, 1.93cm, represented by Greek agent Nick Lotsos) for an average of around 2.300.000 $ guaranteed until 2015.??

Currently, Langford is averaging 17.8 points, 2.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and shooting 57.9 percent from the field  in 29.2 minutes for BC Khimky.

Lance Thomas: Reading books and working hard

Austin Toros forward Lance Thomas has a knack for giving 100 percent of his energy to everything he does. Recently he started reading books. Thomas claims he has read more books in the last three months than he did in four years at Duke.

“All my teammates laugh at me because I’m sitting there with my little Kindle,” Thomas said. “I love it, I’ve been breezing through books. When we’re in the airport, sometimes I don’t even hear them say we’re boarding, I’m so glued to my book.”

When Thomas is on the basketball court, he has a similar level of focus. His goal with the Toros is to improve and make an NBA team. NBA scouts have noticed his attitude and talent. Head coach Brad Jones said Thomas is always one of the first players scouts ask about.

“They say he catches their eye right away with the way he’s committed to both ends of the floor and the way he works,” Jones said.

Thomas is hoping it is finally his time to shine after a college career defined by sacrifice.

He was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of Newark St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey where he led his team to two state titles.

His transition to playing college basketball at Duke was not what he expected initially. As a freshman, he was able to start for the Blue Devils, but was asked to play defense and rebound by Coach Mike Krzyzewski and not worry so much about scoring points.

“That’s all he wanted me to do,” Thomas said. “I was like, ‘that’s all I have to do to get on the floor?’ I did everything he asked me to and played some good minutes my freshman year.”

He stayed on the floor, starting all four years. His role would not change much though. Defense and hustle were what Krzyzewski wanted from Thomas, so that’s what he gave him. 

Thomas accepted his role and developed into the guy who would lead his team by example, always hustling, always giving it his all defensively. No longer was he concerned about how many points he scored, Thomas did what his coach told him to do to help the team win.

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