Toros add height, best name ever in draft

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.

Cameron Bennerman, 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.

Michael Sturns (6-5, 210, Holy Family) and Yan Moukoury (6-7, 225, Brewton Parker) were taken in the fifth and sixth round, respectively.

Recap:

Round Player Height Weight
1 Kyle Hunt 6-8 230
2 Cameron Bennerman 6-4 205
3 Chief Kickingstallionsims 7-1 265
4 Keith Chamberlain 6-9 240
5 Michael Sturns 6-5 205
6 Yan Moukourov 6-7 225
7 Blake Thompson 7-0 235
8 N/A

 

Former Toro Trades Sneakers for Oxfords

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.

D-League Numbers, Names: A Primer

Somewhere around the eighth grade I lost interest in math. I endured it through high school and later college. Numbers bore me. However, numbers matter.

Numbers matter in basketball terms because numbers represent teams and players. With the NBA lockout it would be wise for Spurs fans to get a little more acquainted with the D-League, and the Austin Toros to be specific.  Some numbers that might prove helpful:

160. There are that many players in the D-League all trying to prove they belong with the big boys in the NBA. A veritable collection of the Rocky Balboa’s of the basketball world. The reality is, most will not make it. But some will. Some will push themselves and elevate their game and in an incredible moment in time will get their opportunity with an NBA team and will produce—and stick. “Yo Adrian. I did it!” If you’re a sports fan you have to love a good underdog story. The D-League is filled with them. One hundred and sixty guys all hungry for that shot.

16: There are sixteen D-League teams, nine with single NBA team affiliation. For the uninitiated, here is a breakdown of the D-League teams, and their NBA affiliation: Austin Toros (Spurs); Bakersfield Jam, (Clips, Suns, Raptors) NBA DLeague Canton (Cavs), Dakota Wizards (Warriors), Erie Bayhawks (Knicks), Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Best name ever-Pistons, Pacers, Bucks), Idaho Stampede (Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz), Iowa Energy (Bulls, Hornets, Wizards), Los Angeles D-Fenders (Lakers), Main Redclaws (Celtics, Bobcats, 76’ers), Reno Bighorns (Hawks, Grizzlies, Kings), Rio Grand Valley Vipers (Rockets), Sioux City Skyforce (Heat, T-Wolves, Magic), Springfield Armor (Nets), Texas Legends (Mavericks), Tulsa 66’ers (Thunder).

30: There are thirty NBA teams that have a keen interest in the players of the D-League. These teams are not looking for The Next Big Thing, rather they are looking for a player who is ready to be a viable role player on their team. They also look to the league to give young guns that can’t crack their rotation the playing time they need to develop. Last season alone, twenty-five teams assigned thirty-seven first or second year players to the D-League. Eighteen of those players were first round picks from 2009 or 2010, six were lottery picks. Forty-five percent of players drafted in 2010 played in the D-League during the season. Every NBA team had at least one player on their roster with D-League experience.  The NBA takes the D-League seriously, and Spurs fans should as well.

(more…)

Video: Da’Sean Butler Interview

After a recent Toros game, I interviewed Spurs forward Da’Sean Butler, who had just been assigned to the Toros on a rehab stint.

I asked Butler what he thought and where he was when he heard the news that the Spurs were going to sign him for the remainder of the season. Butler described being signed by the Spurs as a “joy.” Watch the video below for the full interview.

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.”

Spurs assign Green to Toros

Cross-posted from ProjectSpurs.com.

San Antonio Spurs guard/forward Danny Green  was assigned to the Austin Toros today.

Danny GreenBut it’ll be a short stint for Green, who will only play one game as a member of the Toros, since they are now officially out of playoff contention, regardless if they beat the Texas Legends tonight.

Green (#4, 6’6”, 210, 6/22/87) most recently signed with the Spurs on March 16, appearing in three games totaling 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He originally signed with the Spurs on November 17, when he appeared in two games, totaling 6 points in 9 minutes, before being released on November 23. In between those two stints with the Spurs, Green saw action in 16 games with the Reno Bighorns, where he averaged 20.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.38 steals in 37.4 minutes per game. He shot .451 (114-253) from the field, .434 (36-83) from three-point territory and .795 (58-73) from the free throw line.

Green showed the Spurs a glimpse of what they can expect from him when he was on the floor for 20 minutes against the Trailblazers. He hit all three of his shots from the field, including one three-pointer and his defense was on display against Portland’s backcourt.

Travis Atkins will be covering the Toros vs. Legends game tonight, so look for a full report on his Austin debut tomorrow morning.

News & Notes: Going green and the playoff chase

Going Green• Going Green

The Austin Toros will be wearing green uniforms when they take on the Texas Legends at home in their last regular season game on Saturday. The green initiative is sponsored by Texas Gas Service and Well Home. After the game, the jerseys will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to Meals on Wheels among other charities.

• Race for the 8th seed

The Toros are currently eight in the Western Conference and are one of four teams vying for a playoff spot with less than a handful of games remaining.

They are still behind the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Texas Legends and Idaho Stampede, but there’s about a game and a half separating all four teams. If the Toros had won against the Stampede on Saturday, followed by their victory on Sunday, they could have leapfrogged the Stampede. They can do the same against the Texas Legends if they win both their games on Thursday and Saturday.

The Toros, who were just assigned Da’Sean Butler from the Spurs, are well aware of the importance of their last three games. Michael Joiner recently told me that the team has a whiteboard in their locker room with all of the seeds and where they stand, so you can expect that they’ll be playing with some extra motivation to close out the regular season.

The biggest challenge will be overcoming Fort Wayne’s lead, especially considering they have only two games remaining on their schedule and both are against sub .500 teams.

For more on the chase for the playoffs, check out the breakdown from Matt Hubert at D-League Digest.

Spurs assign Da’Sean Butler to Toros

The Spurs, today, announced that they have assigned newly-signed forward Da’Sean Butler to the Austin Toros.

Butler was cleared to play three weeks ago, and will be joining the Toros for their final three regular season games on a rehab stint, similar to James Anderson’s two stints with Austin.

Butler, a 6-7, 230-pound forward out of the University of West Virginia, was signed by the Spurs on March 25. He was originally selected by the Miami Heat with the 42nd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He signed with the Heat on August 30 and was later waived on October 25. He has been out of action since suffering a torn left ACL in the 2010 Final Four against Duke on April 3. Butler played four seasons with the Mountaineers, finishing with 107 career wins, the most in school history. As a senior, he was named First Team All-Big East, averaging a team-high 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 38 games.

The extra help at small forward couldn’t come at a better time, as the Toros have not announced a timeline for forward Lance Thomas’ return after he suffered an epileptic seizure during Saturday’s game against the Idaho Stampede.

With the loss of Thomas, the Toros went to a three guard lineup on Sunday. The Toros are also one of several bubble teams batting for a playoff seed. If Butler can contribute right away, that could help their cause even more.

Aside from that, Toros forward Michael Joiner says Butler will bring energy to the Toros.

“I think he will fit in fine,” Joiner said. “A lot of youth on the team so their will be a lot of energy and chemistry.”

Toros fans can see Butler in action tomorrow night as he and the Toros will be in Reno to take on the Bighorns at 9 p.m. CST. The game will be available via futurecast.

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

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.