Spurs assign Baynes, De Colo, Thomas to Toros

Malcolm Thomas

Nando De Colo and Aron Baynes, who had one-game stints with the Austin Toros before being called back up, were reassigned to the Toros today along with the San Antonio Spurs’ recently-signed Malcolm Thomas, who has previously played in Austin.

As Paul Garcia noted on our sister site, Project Spurs, Baynes finished with with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocks in Austin’s 114-102 victory over the Delaware 87ers while De Colo scored a game-high 29 points, along with eight rebounds, eight assists and six steals.

Thomas, a former San Diego State teammate of Spurs starting small forward Kawhi Leonard, previously played for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League. Through two games this season, he was averaging a league-best 33.5 points and 15.5 rebounds.

All three players are available for today’s home game against the Reno Bighorns, which will be starting shortly.

Toros hosting free open scrimmage tonight

The Austin Toros are hosting an open scrimmage tonight as they prepare to begin the regular season next week.

The scrimmage is free and open to the public. Fans can get autographs from Austin Toros players and a chance

to win season tickets by knocking down a half-court shot

The Toros are encouraging fans to bring a canned good to help feed Central Texas.

When: November 12th – 6:30 – 8:30p.m.

Where: Cedar Park Recreation Center

1435 Main Street, Cedar Park, TX 78613

Also be sure to keep your eyes on Toros Nation and our twitter account all day as we’ll be at Toros Media Day to bring you quotes and stories from the coaches and players.

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

 

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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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.

High stakes for young players in the D-League

Even if there is no NBA season, the D-League will play a full season.  This may be the most significant D-League season ever due to the NBA lockout. The stakes for players on the bubble, newly drafted rookies and young players already under contract are exceptionally high. They need playing time. They have systems to learn. They cannot afford to waste a year. Instead of cursing the darkness that is the NBA lockout, Spurs fans should pay attention to the lights up north in Austin as the D-League Toros prepare for the 2011-12 season because there is the real possibility that what happens in Austin this season will profoundly reverberate in San Antonio.

We could see San Antonio Spurs first round draft picks Kawhi Leonard, Cory Joseph and last year’s first round pick, James Anderson as well as Danny Green and De’Sean Butler, in a Toros uniform playing in the D-League this season.  It’s not certain yet what the relation will be between this years’ NBA draft crop and the NBDL, and it’s more complex for players like Anderson and Butler and Green who are already under contract—but if all five could play for the Toros this season it would be a huge win: A win for them, for the Toros, and certainly for the Spurs.  Whenever the NBA season resumes, these young guns would be in playing shape and would know each other and the rather complex Spurs system. That’s a win for everybody. Well, perhaps not for Richard Jefferson, but that’s another story.

But even if some high-powered lawyers step in and declare that players under contract (like Anderson and Butler and Green) can’t play in the NBDL, or this rookie crop cannot play in the D-League—what happens in Austin is still very important if you are a Spurs fan. I don’t think the casual Spurs fan has an appreciation for how significant the D-League is. Since I am but a mere writer, perhaps someone else with greater credentials than I, can make the case for why the D-League matters.

Current Suns GM, and former Director of Scouting for the Spurs, Lance Blanks has a high view of the D-League.  Here is Blanks’ take on the Developmental League and its value to young players:

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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.

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Why the Cleveland Thunderbirds matter to Spurs fans

The New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA’s D-League are now owned and operated by the Cleveland Cavaliers and will be playing ball in Canton, Ohio in the 2011-2012 season for the D-League.

Why does this news matter?

If you are a San Antonio Spurs fan and already experiencing the angst of the NBA lockout, this news, hardly seems relevant or encouraging as you consider the implications of a possibly non-existent NBA season.

But the D-League does matter, and this move by Cleveland also matters, especially to small market teams like San Antonio.

The Cavs joins the Spurs, Lakers, Thunder, and the Warriors as NBA teams with sole ownership of a D-League team.  This relationship between one D-League team and one NBA team benefits the D-League because the investment translates into long-term stability for the developmental league.  This relationship also is very significant for small market teams like Cleveland, and yes, the Spurs.

The Spurs’ brain-trust has been, in large part, brilliant when it comes to finding and developing talent. Names like Ginobili, Parker, Hill, Blair, Splitter and Neal immediately come to mind.

While there may not be a 2011-2012 NBA season, the D-League will go on and there are other names that Spurs fans should take interest in: Da’Sean Butler and Danny Green. Both are on the Spurs roster and both will likely play for the Spurs D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros.

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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.”

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.