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.

On the Road with Michael Joiner: Final Entry

Toros forward Michael Joiner was kind enough to write an “on the road” series for us this season, giving us an even closer look at the person and the player. Now that the Toros season is over, he’s leaving town and will be headed overseas very soon. Thanks to Michael for writing for us this season and we hope to see him back in Austin in November.

Michael JoinerWow! What a year! What a finish! Us not making the playoffs is like when you are in high school and lose the first round of playoffs and now all you have to look forward to is prom. Meaning that there is such a long wait in-between these two events. Players are like zombies because they do not know what to do now since we usually are playing in the post season.

Well, you know what? (No really. Do you know what?) Oh yeah, life goes on. It was a roller coaster season for my team this year. I played with a great group of guys. With so many people coming and going, it became hard to really get close to players but I enjoyed the time that I had with all of them.

The things to take away from our team was that we showed signs of growth and maturity. Some of it may have been seen for the fans towards the middle and end of season, and some will click for our guys next season. That’s just how the game goes.

Congrats to my guys, Marcus Cousin and Kyle Weaver, with their NBA Call ups. My WOLFPACK crew (Lance, Leo, and KP) all did good this season as well. Squeaky Johnson did a great job at the oh for us this season. Happy to see him have a solid season (be sure to watch Squeak TV).

I know the fans enjoyed watching my guy, Aubrey Coleman blow past the competition this season. He is a special player. The big guy in the middle, Eric, was a huge force on the defensive end for us. This season the Toros fans got a chance to see Spurs players, James Anderson, De’Sean Butler, and Danny Green play and help out our team as well.
I cannot forget about my coaches, Dice, and my managers, Bart and Nick, for all they have done for us that most people do not get a chance to see.

While this is on my mind, continue to support all those countries that are in need of rebuilding. Our very own Toro family member, Dice, had his country, Japan, hit by a couple of earthquakes. So any help is appreciated. But it’s been great playing with my teammates this season and to be reunited with old friends like Tre Kelly. This season felt more of like a family than anything to me with my brothers.

Many of us will continue to play ball abroad or stay in the states to workout. So follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever but we will be around the globe. Special shout out to the staff in the Toros office. You all did a great job!

Last but not least as I close this out while on this flight from Austin to NC, I want to send a special shout out to Toros Nation. It was good getting to know you guys and continue to do good work. I’m signing off Austin. It’s been a blast! Til next time…be safe, love others and love yourself. Gone….

-Michael Joiner

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.”

Video recap: Austin Toros vs. Iowa Energy

On the Road with Michael Joiner: Plano

Plano

By Michael Joiner

It’s been a while now. I know there have not been any write ups from me. There have been two reasons: We have been playing at home (but I thought about doing write ups then), and because I have not had the right thing to write about (writers know about this.)

Well, the on the road series has lead us into another season: it’s the playoff chase. This is the part of the season where teams are competing, you see players leaving, you see the rookies take that growth of maturity and become men or you can see the total opposite.

Since my last write up, we have acquired two new players, a teammate of mine has been called up, we have worn pink jerseys, and the bond of this team has grown tremendously.

First, let me say CONGRATULATIONS to the man in the middle for the Toros this season, Marcus Cousin. He earned a NBA Call-up to the Utah Jazz. Next, let me address the pink jerseys. No, there was not a washing machine problem. We wore pink to show support for the FIGHT AGAINST BREAST CANCER! It was a great cause and a even better event for everyone.

We have had some roster changes. We have acquired Kyle Weaver and Trey Kelly. These guys have replaced Moses and Steph. Every last one of these guys have been a positive impact for our team and has helped us to play better. The changes that one sees. It amazes me. While writing this, I am waiting in the lobby with Kyle getting ready to play the Texas Legends.

Well game one of these weekend series was a tough one to deal with because we let it get away. Our team felt like we had it, but we didn’t come out with the outcome that we wanted. We had a good team effort so we will take that over into tonights match up.

The hotel we stay in is fairly new called the NYLO hotel. Real european style and 9 year old size beds. But it has a interesting look that makes you like it. It has a 70′s feel in 2011. Check it out if you are ever in Plano (no this is not a commercial).

There are many options on what to eat while on the road. Players choose based on how they feel, what or where others may go, and what’s in their budget. Some have gone to 5 Guys, Chic-Fil-A, some Italian spot, and the hotel restaurant.

March Madness has got us all tuned in. You can still hear guys talking about why their school is the best…lol. On another note, waking up and seeing the disaster in Japan makes one reflect and see how thankful we are. Our team trainer, Dice, is from there and he said his family and friends were doing ok (now that’s great news to hear).

After the loss, we just had a brief film session. See we didn’t play bad, but we didn’t do what was needed to win the game. 5 pm departure for the gym for our battle against the Legends. National TV game so we will see who is ready to play and who isn’t. We need this game. Now we will see who WANTS this game. My fellas are relaxed. Good to see. I write this as I prepare for the game.

Writing helps me focus for those that are wondering why I’m writing before a game. You always need outlets in life you know, and I have found one.

I hope the next thing that I write is letting you know whether we reached our goal or not…

Oh yeah…WE WON! Now we travel back…oh how things just springed forward. Stay tuned….LATER!

P.U.S.H. Mode…Success is what I am after.

Squeaky Johnson: Finding success in the face of adversity

Austin Toros point guard Carldell “Squeaky” Johnson is in his fourth year with the team, a rarity in a league where rosters change from day-to-day. Since his first year in 2007, Johnson has seen dozens of teammates come and go, some to the NBA, some to other professional teams and some just out of basketball.

Johnson has fallen into the category of a good player that everyone likes and is a team leader, but has never been able to break into the NBA. For Squeaky, whose road to Austin was long and rocky, playing for the Toros has not been a minor league struggle, but a dream realized.

“I never actually thought that I would be the guy that would be on the pedestal,” Johnson said. “Going to the NBA wasn’t the ultimate goal for me. For me it’s being successful and not doing things that my father wouldn’t agree of. With that being said, yeah I’ve made it and for me to continue playing basketball without actually thinking it’s a job or getting a job, I’m making it.”

Squeaky is having his best season yet with the Toros, averaging a career high in minutes (34.5), points (12.3) and assists (6.5). Overall, Johnson has enjoyed his time in Austin.

“It’s been great man,” Johnson said. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs. I went from starting, to being a role player, to a guy that was just supporting the team in different ways. Now I got the job of starting and being part of the team and I’m excited about it.”

Johnson wants to keep playing basketball as long as possible and said he would love to be back with the Toros for a fifth season. If that doesn’t work out, he would be fine with playing somewhere overseas. 

Squeaky, who was given his nickname by his aunt after a character from Laverne and Shirley (Squiggy), has had some stability the last four years as a member of the Toros, something he has not always had. Johnson was a senior star point guard at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit his hometown of New Orleans.

(more…)

On the Road with Michael Joiner: Dallas

Austin Toros forward Michael Joiner is a four-year D-League veteran and in his second season with the Toros. He has agreed to write an “On the Road” series for Toros Nation and this is his fourth post.

Michael JoinerBy Michael Joiner

Back after a commercial break. The new part of the season has officially begun. In this post, I will feature a few themes such as newness and homecoming. This afternoon we came together for the first time after being on the NBA ALL-Star break. It was competitive and good seeing one another again.

We have a total of 17 games left. That was news to my ears. Time passes quickly, right? Other things that are new is some music by Wiz, Bruno Mars, and other things. While writing this, I am watching at the all star game while busing to Dallas for our Monday night game against the Texas Legends.

I’m glad I get a chance to watch the game. It should be an exciting one. Shout out to my teammate Lance Thomas with his Gain Greene Adidas! Marcus Cousin represented the team well at the All Star game as well. I think he only missed two shots. (Ballin!)

Another new thing for the team is that we have a new season starting. It’s the second half so this is where all teams are trying to finish strong and position themselves in the playoffs. This is a homecoming for four on the team, Coach Taylor, Jermaine, Moses and Steve, our manager. All are from the Dallas area. It should be a good game. Signing out.

P.U.S.H. Mode…Success is what I am after.

You can watch Joiner and the Toros take on the Texas Legends at 7 p.m. tonight on Fox Sports Southwest. If you have any questions for Michael or would like to comment on his posts, feel free to comment below or email ontheroad@projectspurs.com and we’ll be sure to get your questions/comments to him. Follow Michael on twitter @mjborn2win.

On the Road with Michael Joiner: Austin-bound

Austin Toros forward Michael Joiner is a four-year D-League veteran and in his second season with the Toros. He has agreed to write an “On the Road” series for Toros Nation and this is his third post, a recap of the Toros’ recent win over the rival RGV Vipers.

Michael JoinerBy Michael Joiner

Good win? Let’s call it amazing! Why? Cause it was our first road win against the Rio Grande Vipers. Second, this is our rivals so you know we owed them one. Lastly, for guys that were returnees such as Squeaky, both coaches, Taylor and Alex, and myself this is always a fame that we want. For those that don’t know why, just know that we have history! Oh, I almost forgot this was Moses first trip back since losing against them in the championship game last season.

Ok! Enough about them. More about us…we played a good game, not necessarily a complete game but we played better than our opponent last night. Big E aka Eric has given us a huge presence in the paint with his shot blocking and defense. “The Other Guys” is what the guys off the bench call ourselves and they came in a gave a solid blow to our opponent. Beale, Lyons, and Coleman just too quickly name a few made big buckets and played solid defense while giving our starters a breather.

James Anderson set the tone for us along with Squeaky, Cousin, Palmer and Thomas. I have to say it was a collective effort. Now I know, some of you may be asking “What about you Joiner?” Well, I played my part as well. I was a player coach if you want to look at it from my perspective. I understand this league is about growth and opportunity. Also, with having a Spurs player down, our line up and playing time will all be affected. So that’s my contribution. We seem to be turning things in the right direction. Now let’s have “winning” be our reflection especially since we are Toros! (Black & Silver….You know what it is!)

P.U.S.H. Mode…Success is what I am after.

If you have any questions for Michael or would like to comment on his posts, feel free to comment below or email ontheroad@projectspurs.com and we’ll be sure to get your questions/comments to him. Follow Michael on twitter @mjborn2win.

On the Road with Michael Joiner: RGV

Austin Toros forward Michael Joiner is a four-year D-League veteran and in his second season with the Toros. He has agreed to write an “On the Road” series for Toros Nation and this is his second post, which he wrote before last night’s win against the RGV Vipers.

Michael Joiner

By Michael Joiner

It’s game day against the Rio Grande Vipers. We are on the road playing down in the valley. It was a long and exhausting day of travel for the team yesterday. Bags were lost by the airlines, but we eventually got them later on that night.

How’s the team? Well, I will say that we are good. Today seemed to be different. Why? Just because everyone really had a different pep in their step. The word of the year has been “Swag” and you can see everyone really bonding and really in their own zone. Even though the results we wanted in our last game did not show up as the game came to a close, but we have honestly showed some strides in what we can accomplish this season.

Our team defense has gotten a lot better. Guys seem to start understanding how to play this game now. Honestly, for me it seems like it was a long time ago when I was some of these guys age…lol. But I had some great basketball teachers that helped me to mature and grow quickly in this game. Most of the guys ate out together for lunch at Applebees and now are resting up until we depart for the game at 4:40 p.m.

We started Squeak T.V. back up so you all will have some new footage real soon. Last game, my guy Aubrey Coleman played like we know he can and gave us great energy off the bench. Our newest addition, Eric, was a great defensive presence for us in the paint with some massive blocks. Our team played good overall, but their is still room to improve because we gave that game away. We have yet to put a complete game together, but we are very close to it. So continue to support the Toro Movement…Black & Silver, Black & Silver, Black & Silver, Black & Silver.

If you have any questions for Michael or would like to comment on his posts, feel free to comment below or email ontheroad@projectspurs.com and we’ll be sure to get your questions/comments to him. Follow Michael on twitter @mjborn2win.

On the Road with Michael Joiner: Utah

Austin Toros forward Michael Joiner is a four-year D-League veteran and in his second season with the Toros. He has agreed to write an “On the Road” series for Toros Nation and this is his first post from Utah. The Toros are set to take on the Utah Flash tonight at 8:00 p.m. CST. In his first post, he writes about spending Valentine’s Day on the road, introduces some of the newer players on the roster and talks about how the rookies spend their off time.

Michael JoinerBy Michael Joiner

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the Lovers in the world! It’s February 14, 2011 and my team and I are on the road out in Utah. It seems like every time that this holiday comes around I am on the road playing basketball. Life of a baller, right? I know the ladies that are in our lives really have to sacrifice a lot just to be in our lives and stick around because Valentine’s day is the day for the ladies.

Well, we are on a one game winning streak as of now. We had a good home win against our rivals, Rio Grande Vipers, last Saturday at the Cedar Park Arena. Our team has changed a lot this season. Some of the fans that have been around may notice some different faces. So let me take this opportunity to introduce you to them: We have Leo Lyons, Moses (I’m not going to even try to attempt to spell his last name..lol), and James Anderson (from the Spurs). These guys have been great additions to our team so far. This road trip will start with Utah and end with us playing a new rival in the state of Texas, the Texas Legends. Should be a fun road trip. I say this because it gives a chance to see how far we have come and grown as a team.

At this point in the season, rookies aren’t rookies anymore. So that crutch has been pulled out from under them and I see everyone on the team as one. Off the court, you can find each guy pretty much doing what they normally do, which is chill and get ready for a game or practice. For example, you can find Kevin Palmer and Cousins watching movies all the time. Those guys know every line in every movie. Just ask them. Squeaky is always working on his show (Squeak TV) and trying to get new footage. I am always working on things outside of the game, which can be music or poetry. You have to have an outlet in this game. Well, everyone has to have an outlet in life, and that goes for those that do not play any sports.

Game time is at 7, so like many on my team, I am about to lay it down. Lights out, maybe, or I may be like KP and Cousins and watch a movie..hmmm. Later!  (Black & Silver, Black & Silver, Black & Silver, Black & Silver.)

If you have any questions for Michael or would like to comment on his posts, feel free to comment below or email ontheroad@projectspurs.com and we’ll be sure to get your questions/comments to him. Follow Michael on twitter @mjborn2win.