2013-2014 Austin Toros: A Look Back

As the 2013 -2014 NBA D-League season comes to a close, teams are looking back at the season along with their rosters and doing one of two things.  They are looking at what adjustments they need to make as they begin their journey in to the playoffs or they are evaluating their players’ performances with an eye towards next year.

Unfortunately for the Austin Toros, they find themselves in the cellar of the NBA D-League’s Central Division and looking towards how to prepare for next season.

While their 19-31 record left much to be desired, the Toros were be among league leaders in field goal percentage at 46.7%.

pittmanGoing in to next season, the team will have to work on improving the on the offensive end.  While they were among the league leaders in field goal percentage, their offense in the paint was slowed down by their lack of three-point shooting.  The Toros averaged 8.1 shots made which put them among the bottom half of the league.   Defenses were able to clog the paint due to not having to worry bout guarding as tightly on the perimeter.

The traffic in the paint also prevented guards from being able drive to the basket.  As a result, the Toros were tied with the Erie BayHawks for the least amount of free throw attempts per game with 43.3 trips per game.

On the defensive side of the court, the Toros excelled at protecting the rim.  Opponents shot 33 percent within 10 feet.  The mid-range to the perimeter areas are where teams hurt them, shooting 38 percent from these areas of the floor.

Among the Toros players that spent a majority of the 2013-2014 season with the team, Ronald “Flip” Murray led the team with a 21.8 points per game average. Dexter Pittman was among league leaders with 2.3 blocks per game. Myck Kabongo was not far down the list with 2.0 blocks per game

In order for the Toros to reclaim the NBA D-League title, they will need to get back to basics and focus on protecting not only the paint but making sure opponents get tough looks from the perimeter and on mid-range jumpers as well.

 

Toros close out season with win over Vipers

The Austin Toros closed out their 2013-14 season on Saturday with a win over the RGV Vipers.

The Vipers were playing for playoff seeding, while the Toros came in with an 18-31 record that eliminated them from the playoffs. Previously, the Toros were 1-6 against the Vipers, but a 129-125 win ruined the Vipers’ chances at the Central division title..

The Toros were led by Flip Murray, who scored 32 points, and Courtney Fells, who finished with 28 points and six rebounds.

If you missed the game, you can catch the full replay below.

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.

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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