Category Archives: Authentic NBA Jerseys

Aaron McKie Jersey Signed

Aaron McKie still enjoys a good pickup game. He finds time one October morning between a team practice and his afternoon meetings to head to the basketball courts at Temple University’s McGonigle Hall, where he finds a familiar group of undergraduates hooping. He tries to make time to play at least once a week, but it’s getting harder these days. Temple’s season begins in less than two weeks, and McKie is preparing for his first season as the Owls’ head men’s basketball coach.

Standing near the sideline, McKie calls his own number and steps on to the court. Gone is the Caesar cut of his youth, replaced by a depilated dome and a grizzled goatee. The 47-year-old is more than two decades removed from his playing days at Temple under Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, and he retired from the NBA in 2007, but his game has aged well, and he’s not about to take it easy on his opponents.

McKie calls an isolation play and nets a midrange jumper, sticking his tongue out at the hapless undergraduate guarding him. At 6-foot-5, he’s a towering presence on the court, and while his movement has grown robotic, his instincts remain. He doesn’t miss a single jumper in an hour. He yells at his teammates for missing defensive assignments and protests when he doesn’t get to run the point. He shouts “HELL NAWLLL” when his opponents miss a shot. At one point, McKie steals a pass, crosses his defender over with a left-handed, behind-the-back dribble, drops another with an inside-out dribble, pushes the ball the length of the court, and draws in three defenders at the rim before finding a teammate open for a corner 3. He smiles, slaps his right hip, and gallops back down the court as if riding a bronco. “I still got it!” he says as he walks off the court. “Those good kids, man. That’s my crew, and I play with them all the time. But I be talking shit to them. Those motherfuckers ain’t beat me in a month!” he says with a laugh.

Jim Farmer Jersey Signed

Former NBA player Jim Farmer has human trafficking charges dropped
Former NBA player Jim Farmer will not face human trafficking charges following his arrest last month, a Tennessee judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision came during a preliminary hearing for the University of Alabama standout, who was among 16 men arrested on suspicion of seeking sex with minors during a two-day police sting, the Dothan Eagle reported.

CARMELO ANTHONY MAKES DEBUT WITH PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS AFTER MORE THAN YEAR OFF COURT

Former NBA player Jim Farmer had human trafficking charges against him dropped on Tuesday.
Former NBA player Jim Farmer had human trafficking charges against him dropped on Tuesday. (Rutherford County Jail)

Farmer, 55, who lives in Franklin, Tenn., allegedly communicated with a female undercover police officer posing as a 16-year-old girl.

Police took him into custody when he showed up to meet the fictitious teen.

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Farmer was a leading scorer at Alabama before embarking on a career in the NBA in 1987. He played for several teams over six seasons, including the Denver Nuggets, the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz.

Kevin Brooks Jersey Signed

As part of NBA Australia’s new feature series, ‘NBA Passport’, former Denver Nuggets forward Kevin Brooks spoke one-on-one with NBA Australia about dunking on Michael Jordan, winning NBL titles with the Adelaide 36ers and his adulation for LeBron James.

After finishing at University of Southwestern Louisiana, how special was it to hear your name called out at #18 in the 1991 draft, which also included your soon-to-be Denver team-mate Dikembe Mutombo and Australia’s Luc Longley?

It was an awesome feeling. To be drafted from anywhere is a great accomplishment, but to do it from White Castle, Louisiana, a town of 2000 people, you’re seen as a small-town hero to get out of the hood. My agent, Bill Strickland, went to New York (for the draft) but I decided not to attend. I didn’t want to be sitting there in a nice suit that I might not be able to pay for!

You played 126 NBA games in three seasons with the early-90s Nuggets under Paul Westhead, then Dan Issel. Your reflections?

My experience was awesome. I only got three seasons when I initially wanted a minimum 10, but I have nothing but fond memories. Paul’s system was fun because he wanted to run and gun a lot. Dan slowed things down and worked around Mutombo, who was the league’s best shot-blocker.

What was Mutombo like?

A great guy and such a character. He’s very intelligent and had a helluva career. We’d tease him constantly that of the seven different languages he speaks, English was the worst one (laughs)! Mutombo would talk trash all the time with that deep, thick accent, but he also taught you how to get your shot off against a big shot-blocker because you had to go up against him every day at training. If he swatted you, he’d let you know about it all the way down the court.

Can you confirm that you once dunked on the legendary Michael Jordan in a match at Chicago Stadium?

I did, but I didn’t realise at the time. It was my rookie year and we were getting hammered pretty good. The Bulls missed a free throw and I turned, hit the left lane. Our point guard Winnie Garland kicked it out to me on the run. I grabbed it, left-hand speed-dribbled and took off for a two-handed dunk. After the game, (team-mate) Joe Wolf, who played with Mike at North Carolina, said ‘nice dunk rook, Jordan almost took your head off when he swung, trying to block you’. That’s my dunk on Michael Jordan, even though I didn’t know he was there. He’s the greatest player ever, so you gotta mention you dunked on him. That’s your moment!

Another highlight was when your eighth-seeded Nuggets came from 2-0 down to stun the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics 3-2 in the first round of the 1994 Western Conference playoffs. What are your memories from that shock win?

No-one gave us a chance. Our goal was to simply make the playoffs. We squeaked in and Seattle thrashed us those first two games. They led the league in wins under coach George Karl with stars like Reign Man (Shawn Kemp), Glove (Gary Payton), Detlef Schrempf and Kendall Gill. But we didn’t fear them simply because we were young and didn’t know any better.
When they came to McNichols (Denver), it was a different ballgame and we won Games 3 and 4. Then it’s like ‘why not?’. We didn’t have anything to lose and when you think like that, you can be pretty dog-gone dangerous. All the pressure was on Seattle and we played an unbelievable Game 5. Mutombo turned that series around. He got in Kemp’s head man – had him in his pocket!

Unfortunately, two members of that Nuggets squad would later suffer severe misfortune, Brian Williams, aka Bison Dele (presumed murdered), and Rodney Rogers (paralysed after a dirt bike accident).

(Pauses)I get instantly emotional when those names come up. I considered Brian, or B-Dub, a very good friend. The last time I saw him was in Perth where he was riding dune buggies with Luc Longley. Six months later he was gone. I have a lot of love for Brian, and Rodney likewise. I haven’t spoken to Rodney since the accident but I definitely intend to.

Basketball took you to France, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Poland and New Zealand, but it was in Australia with the Adelaide 36ers where you really made your mark, forming with Denver team-mate Darnell Mee one of the NBL’s best-ever import combinations and winning championships in your first two seasons (1998, 1999).

Darnell and I were thick as thieves; really good friends on and off the court, and still are to this day, even though we’re opposites. He’s introverted and I’m a bit of a show-off!

Darnell, who earlier played with Canberra, told me Australia is a nice country with a good basketball league and nice hotels. We both wanted to get back into the NBA, but we were just one of the guys. We celebrated those titles like they were NBA championships! Winning the grand final MVP (1998) made it extra special and I still feel honoured about it, although at the time I had no idea there was such an award here.

The 36ers coach then was Australian legend Phil Smyth, who was renowned for being a players’ coach. I assume his relaxed, free-flowing method suited your playing style.

Everyone enjoyed it, without question. Phil was a coach who players wanted to play for. He and SJ (long-time assistant Steve Breheny) were opposites but they complemented each other. They didn’t over-coach us or give us too much information. I don’t think they get enough credit for those back-to-back championships. Our style was very fun to play, entertaining to watch and one we could repeat over and over again.

You averaged 18 points and 40 minutes as an inside-outside scoring force in your 158 NBL games, which included a season with the Sydney Kings under current Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown. What was he like?

Brett was fun to play for. He had so much enthusiasm and energy. His preparation is what I took most from him. Brett put in the effort and got to work with Pop (Gregg Popovich) at a great franchise in San Antonio, and he’s gone on from there.

You’ve moved to coaching where you’re in charge of Central District’s women at State League level and working as a 36ers assistant under Joey Wright. You and Joey go way back, don’t you?

Our colleges played against each other and Joey tried out for Denver my second year there. When he got the Adelaide job, he asked if I’d like to help. Joey is similar to Phil in that the guys like playing for him, but Joey is more defensive-minded. And the language is definitely different – Phil didn’t curse, but Joey does a lot (laughs)!

Do you consider Adelaide home?

Yes. My wife and I had our first child here, a son, on September 24th. I’ve got family back in the States, but Adelaide is my home and has been for a while.

Do you still follow the NBA?

I do. I bought League Pass last season and boy, it’s awesome! I don’t know what I’d been waiting for. I just turn it on, punch a few buttons and I can watch all these NBA games, replays, strategies and learn from the best coaching minds in the world. I feel compelled to support LeBron James at Cleveland because I thought he got a raw deal from people hating on him. I was pulling for Miami the past four years and now that he’s back at Cleveland, I’m a Cavs fan. I want to see LeBron win one for this team and when he retires he’ll be the governor or the mayor of Ohio, whatever he wants. I think it’s a great story.

Tod Murphy Jersey Signed

SALEM — Gordon College senior guard Eric Demers entered Tuesday’s game against Salem State with a scoring average of over 28 points per game.

After his Fighting Scots dispatched the Vikings, 95-78, that number increased by nearly three full points.

Demers went off for a season-high 41 on an efficient 13-of-23 from the field and 8-for-15 from deep, helping his squad pull away from the hosts in the second half and move above .500 the year.

“Salem’s always really good and they always give us a hard time. I know it wasn’t a pretty win, but we did what we had to do,” said Gordon head coach Tod Murphy, his team now 3-2.

“When you have Eric Demers in there scoring 41 points it makes it a lot easier. He hit shots from everywhere tonight and I know he takes some shots that ordinarily I probably wouldn’t allow other players to take, but he makes them.”

Demers got going early and often, closing out the first half with 20 points as Gordon took a slight 47-41 edge into the locker room. As referenced by his coach, the 6-foot-1 sharpshooter did his damage in a myriad of ways: mid-range pull-ups with defenders draped in his shirt, slithery layups in traffic and of course, 3-point bombs.

Piling up the buckets is nothing new for the fifth-year standout, as he averaged exactly 23.4 points in each of the last two seasons. But without running mate Garrison Duvivier, who graduated following last year’s successful campaign, Demers has taken an even more prominent role in the offense.

In five games thus far, he’s scored 24, 30, 28, 32 and 41, respectively, with a shooting split of .464/.400/.853. He seems to have taken his game to the next level in his farewell collegiate campaign, and Murphy has certainly taken note of that.

“He actually worked out with an NBA trainer this summer and that’s why his release I think has actually gotten quicker,” said Murphy. “Unless you foul him it doesn’t really have much of an effect on his shot. He’s a pretty special player at any level but at the D3 level he’s pretty incredible.”

While Demers was undeniably spectacular Tuesday night, things would have been exponentially more difficult had he had to defend Vikings’ senior guard Sean Bryan on the other end. Bryan — who had been averaging 23.6 points, eight rebounds and four assists over his first five — missed the contest due to an ankle injury, and the Vikings certainly suffered from his absence.

Without a reliable ball handler to run the offense (junior guard Alex de La Rosa was also out with an injury), Salem State were forced to work the ball inside a bit more. Hakeem Animashaun was once again a force on the block, finishing with 27 points and 14 rebounds while going 11-for-18 from the charity stripe, while Gloucester native Evan Mason finished with an efficient 14 points and seven boards.

But the Vikings’ offense looked stagnant and out of sorts at times without two of their top playmakers, and Gordon was able to take full advantage. Salem managed to connect on just three of their 17 3-point attempts on the night. With that being said, Murphy felt his group could’ve done a better job on defense and on the glass, as Salem managed to out-rebound the Scots’, 45-43.

“Without Sean out there I wasn’t real pleased with the effort. They would’ve scored 90-plus easily if Sean was in there so it wasn’t one of our best efforts,” said Murphy. “If we can get the defense in order with the offense that we have then we can beat a lot of teams. It’s just that right now we’re going to end up in a lot of 95-94 type games and that’s going to end my life way too soon if we do that too often.”

Ben North turned in a strong effort for the Scots off the bench, contributing 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks in 23 minutes. Big man Parker Omslaer went for 14 points and seven boards while Josh Crutchfield also reached double figures with 10 points, six assists and two steals. Aljernod Terry led Gordon with 13 rebounds.

For Salem, Chris MacDonald had 14 points and eight boards while Fern Bernard chipped in nine off the bench.

Bill Henry Jersey Signed

Nine-year NBA veteran Jeremy Lin is recognized everywhere from New York to his parents’ native Taiwan, but one Milwaukee security guard still refused to believe the 6foot2 guard was a member of the Toronto Raptors.

As he recently told the Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network, Lin was stopped by Fiserv Forum security as he tried to board the Raptors’ bus following the team’s Game 2 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Admittedly, the 30-year-old Lin did not have any identification on him.

‘After game two in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee Arena just screams at me,’ Lin explained, as quoted by the South China Morning Post. ‘He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What? Where’s your pass?”

‘”I don’t know what you’re taking about. I don’t have a pass” This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.’

Despite his experience, Jeremy Lin (left) is averaging only 3.7 minutes a game in the playoffs as Raptors coach Nick Nurse has primarily relied on Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at point guard +6
Despite his experience, Bill Henry Jeremy Lin (left) is averaging only 3.7 minutes a game in the playoffs as Raptors coach Nick Nurse has primarily relied on Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at point guard

Lin had a similar experience in 2015 after signing with the Charlotte Hornets.

‘Went to the Hornets arena for first time and tried convincing security I’m a player,’ he tweeted in September of 2015. ‘She said, ‘What team?!?’ lollll.’

Lin’s Raptors beat the Bucks in Saturday’s Game 7 to advance to the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, who actually signed the former Harvard star as an undrafted rookie in 2010.

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He was later cut, picked up by the Houston Rockets, and waived again before landing in New York, where he became an international sensation for the Knicks in 2012.

After injuries forced him into action in early February, Lin led the injury-raved Knicks – losers of 11 of their previous 13 games – on a seven-game winning streak while averaging 20 points a game and earning the nickname ‘Linsanity.’
Bill Henry Jersey Signed

A knee injury ultimately derailed Lin’s breakout season that March, and he has struggled to stay healthy over the last seven seasons.

Craig Dill Jersey Signed

To two generations of Pittsburghers who have been raised to believe theirs isn’t a basketball town, an account of the 1967-68 Pittsburgh Pipers seems apocryphal at best.

But 50 years ago, on May 4, 1968, Pittsburgh was on the pro basketball map after the Pipers won the inaugural American Basketball Association title. Arvesta Kelly, 72, was a rookie guard with the Pipers then, and the memories of that day and that season remain fresh.

“That,” he said about the title-clinching win at Civic Arena, “was the best thing I have ever experienced in my life.”

The story of the Pipers could be told in terms of their success: having the best record (54-24) in the ABA, having the league’s MVP (Connie Hawkins) and coach of the year (Vince Cazzetta) or staving off elimination in Game 6 of the finals in New Orleans to force the deciding Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

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But the story of this nearly forgotten team is one of relationships: between the players, between a team and a city, between a city and a sport.

TEAMMATES

Like their ABA brethren in that formative season, the Pipers were assembled from a collection of players who were cut or blackballed by the NBA. Pittsburgh’s two best players, Hawkins and Charlie Williams, were banned by the NBA: Hawkins for his alleged ties to point-shaving and Williams for failing to report a bribe offered to a teammate at Seattle University.

Being shunned by the NBA gave the players a common cause.

“There were good players (in the ABA). Most of us had either been drafted or had tryouts (in the NBA),” said Pipers guard Jim Jarvis, 75, who was drafted out of Oregon State by the NBA’s San Francisco Warriors. “As competitors, we felt like we were as good as the (NBA).”

Hawkins, who died in October, was the unquestioned star and leader. At 6-foot-8 with large hands, long arms and freakish athletic ability, “he was Julius Erving before Julius Erving,” said guard Steve Vacendak, 73.

“(Cazzetta) called me in Seattle and asked me if I wanted to come and play for him in Pittsburgh,” Williams, 74, said. “I said, ‘Well, what kind of players do you have?’ He said, ‘Well, I have Connie Hawkins …’ I said, ‘I’m coming.’ ”

Hawkins’ talent and unselfish play — he led the Pipers in scoring and assists — endeared him to his teammates. His graciousness endeared him to the town where he would make his home for nearly three decades.

Walt Szczerbiak, who grew up on the South Side and later played for the Pittsburgh ABA franchise when it was re-branded the Condors, remembers Hawkins being a frequent participant in pick-up games around the city. A summer basketball league Hawkins helped to create and played in was active in Pittsburgh from 1975-2010.

“He grew up in New York, but he became a Pittsburgher,” Szczerbiak said.

While Hawkins was the Pipers’ go-to, Art Heyman was their glue. Though his personality could be mercurial — he had several physical confrontations with heckling fans — his influence on the Pipers was obvious.

Before Heyman was acquired in a trade with the ABA’s New Jersey Americans, the Pipers were 11-12 and had lost their previous four games. After his arrival, the Pipers went on a 15-game winning streak and were 43-12 the rest of the way.

In stark contrast Hawkins’ fluid style, Heyman played a more like bull in a China shop.

“He would just put his head down and drive to the basket,” Szczerbiak said, “He would just make shots in traffic that you wouldn’t expect a guy that unathletic to make.”

Lower Burrell native Mark Whited recently interviewed the living members of the Pipers for his upcoming book, “The Pittsburgh Pipers, The Forgotten Franchise.” He said the importance of Heyman, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1963 NBA Draft, could not be overstated.

“This was a really interesting and unique cast of characters,” he said, “and they weren’t the type who would necessarily mesh right away, and they didn’t. But once they got Heyman, they came together as a team.”

It was fitting that a black player (Hawkins) and a white player (Heyman) were the linchpins of the Pipers.

In the late 1960s, Jarvis pointed out, the integration of professional sports still was in its infancy. But while racial tensions simmered in various sectors of society, there were no such issues with the Pipers.

“I hung out more with Connie Hawkins and Chico Vaughn and (the black players),” center Craig Dill, 73, said. “They always laughed and called me the honorary blue-eyed soul brother.

“We were players and friends, and color really didn’t mean anything.”

Kelly agreed: “We enjoyed each other, and we won as a result.”

MOMENTUM

Despite winning, the Pipers were slow to catch on with fans. According to remembertheaba.com, the Pipers averaged about 3,200 fans — good by early ABA standards but hardly overwhelming.

Whited said the Pipers were handicapped by playing many of their home games on Tuesday and Friday nights — high school basketball nights in Western Pennsylvania. They also had to compete with the newly formed Penguins, who had a ready-made fan base after Pittsburgh had been home to the AHL’s Hornets for the previous 30 years.

But the Pipers finally made people sit up and take notice.

Against the New Orleans Buccaneers in Game 6 of the ABA Finals, the Pipers appeared in danger of being eliminated before Hawkins pulled them off the deck. He scored 41 points and had 12 rebounds to pace a 118-112 win.

By the time the team returned to Pittsburgh for Game 7, the city’s interest was piqued. More than 11,000 reportedly watched the Pipers win the title 122-113 behind 35 points from Williams.

Now the team had momentum, and, Vacendak said, the city embraced it.

“The fans, everywhere we went, when they realized we were with the Pipers, they were congratulatory and supportive,” he said.

The players and their new legion of fans were ready for an encore. What they got instead was the shock of their lives: The team was moving to Minnesota.

‘BETRAYED’

Minnesota’s original franchise flopped at the box office and relocated to Miami. Because the ABA’s headquarters were in Minneapolis — NBA legend George Mikan was the commissioner and insisted on having his office in Minneapolis — the league believed it was necessary to have a franchise there.

And who better than the league’s best team with the league’s best player?

The Pipers didn’t fare any better in Minnesota than their predecessor. After one season, the team returned to Pittsburgh — without Hawkins, who had his NBA ban lifted and went on to a hall-of-fame career.

The franchise slogged through three more seasons, the final two as the Condors, before folding.

The damage from the move was irreparable.

“To get up and move and come back,” Kelly said, “people felt like we betrayed them. And we did.”

Vacendak and Williams remain convinced that if the Pipers had stayed, there might still be pro basketball in Pittsburgh today.

“We thought we had a real good following that would have carried over to the next year,” Williams said. “If we would have stayed, there might be an NBA team there now. Who knows? I think the city was ready for professional basketball.”

Others have tried — the Piranhas, the Xplosion, the Phantoms — but pro basketball hasn’t stuck in Pittsburgh since.

FORGOTTEN

The Pipers have become a footnote in Pittsburgh. Whited said he cringed when, during the Penguins’ recent Stanley Cup runs, local media would say a Pittsburgh team had a chance to win a title at home for the first time since the 1960 Pirates.

He believes the Pipers’ legacy should be the same as that of every other Pittsburgh pro sports champion.

“There’s a tendency to think (the ABA) was a minor league, and (the Pipers) don’t rate the same kind of due. But that’s nonsense,” he said. “If you add up the 12 NBA teams and 11 ABA teams (from 1968), that’s 23 teams, less than are in the NBA now. The Pipers were part of a very legitimate league.”

Added Dill: “It was a basketball team that could have competed at almost every level with the NBA that season.”

Members of the Pipers will return to Pittsburgh on May 4-5 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their title. Kelly said he hopes the reunion will spark appreciation from a city that has overlooked one of its champions.

“A lot of people don’t know anything about us,” he said, “and to be able to come to Pittsburgh and be presented to the public, it’s a great moment for all of us and the city of Pittsburgh.”

Rich Niemann Jersey Signed

Getting lost in the crowd has never been an option for Rich Niemann.

That’s the way life is for people who hover above most everyone.

Niemann, a 6-foot-10 center at DuBourg in the early 1960s, went through his share of struggles in his days with the Cavaliers.

“You’re just different,” Niemann, now 65, said of his towering stature. “Blending in is just not possible.”

Niemann, however, had a few things that kept him grounded. One of the most important was basketball.

As a senior during the 1963-64 season, Niemann averaged 25 points to lead DuBourg, a school of almost 2,000 students back then, to the large-schools state championship.

It not only was a big moment for the team’s players, but for the school and its student body. The school newspaper published a special 24-page keepsake, “Red-clad Conquest,” that tells the story of the title run and is filled with photos of cheering students, beaming players, postgame celebrations and championship assemblies.

As for Niemann, the championship season gave him a sense of accomplishment that has stayed with him through the years.

“DuBourg was a life-changing event that gave me the confidence to be what I wanted to be,” he said. “It tempered the feelings of ‘I’m not good at this or that.’”

Niemann went on to play ball in college and in the NBA before settling back in St. Louis. Following stints in both chemical and steel sales, Niemann returned to school, earning a master’s degree and starting a long career as a teacher and coach.

He coached basketball for a few seasons and spent 22 years as the baseball coach at Brentwood. Niemann and his wife, Julie, who works in the financial reporting field, reside in University City.

Today, the boys basketball championships are played at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. Back then, the games alternated between St. Louis and Kansas City, and in 1964 the site was Washington University.

In the semifinals, DuBourg held the ball for the last four minutes before defeating Kansas City Central 43-41 on a last-second layup by Gary Kovarik. The Cavaliers then beat Springfield Parkview 62-52 in the title game. Niemann scored 40 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the final.

Niemann went on to play at St. Louis University where he teamed with Randy Albrecht, who has coached the St. Louis Community College Archers (formerly the Meramec Magic) for 28 years. Albrecht, still one of Niemann’s close friends, joined the SLU coaching staff when he graduated and worked closely with the Billikens big center late in his career.

At first, when Albrecht was a senior and Neimann a sophomore, they didn’t see much court time.

“We were part of what we called ‘F-Troop’, after the old TV show,” Albrecht said, laughing. “We were the guys that got beat up by the first team in practice all the time.

“Later, I worked with him all the time. I think I passed the ball to Rich Niemann more than any human being.”

Niemann was drafted by the Detroit Pistons and spent three seasons in professional basketball, most of it in the ABA. His best year came with the Carolina Cougars, where he averaged 11.3 points and 8.9 rebounds during the 1969-70 season. Niemann played two more seasons in the ABA, but had left the game by the time the Cougars became the Spirits of St. Louis in 1974.

“That was a fun year for me,” Niemann said. “I would have liked to have stayed a little longer.”

Albrecht said Niemann’s improvement was tremendous.

“He was a real effective center in the pros,” Albrecht said. “I remember when he played against (Kareem Abdul-) Jabbar. The plan was to draw Jabbar away from the basket, so Rich shot a lot from the outside. But Rich ended up going two for 12 against him.

“Rich is a really great person,” Albrecht added. “If everyone was like Rich, there would be no wars.”

SLOW START

As DuBourg teammate and close friend John O’Brien recalls, there was nothing about the gawky freshman who arrived at DuBourg in 1960 that hinted at a future college and pro basketball career.

“You would certainly not look at him and say he was going to be a super athlete,” O’Brien said. “I’m sure that when he was a freshman, there were people snickering. The biggest thing to me was how he worked his butt off to get better.”

By the time he was a junior, Niemann’s game was dramatically improved. He developed a pretty nice touch for a big man.

That came in handy as the Cavaliers, coached by Roger Laux, made their run to the state championship. Starters included Niemann, O’Brien, Kovarik, and 6-foot forwards Jim Eberhardt and Mike McEvoy. The pivotal victory that had the Southside talking was a 57-56 regional win over rival St. Louis U. High, which had beaten the Cavaliers twice during the season.

“The school was caught up in it, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger,” O’Brien said. “The bishop even gave the nuns permission to go to the title game. It became the school’s focus.”

The title contest was broadcast on KMOX radio with “Easy” Ed McCauley and SLU coach John Bennington on the call.

“This was before the advent of the media,” Niemann said. “They would play some of the excerpts over the intercom at school long after we graduated.”

Former DuBourg athletic director Kevin Regan said Niemann still makes it back for alumni contests at the school every season. The next one is coming up in early February.

“He still gets his fair share of points out there,” Regan said. “He’s a very pleasant person who never misses it.”

Niemann said it all came together at the right time and in the right place. Had the title game not been local, it would have been a totally different experience.

“We had a really fortunate situation at Washington University, being reasonably close to where DuBourg was,” Niemann said. “It was different to ask your dad if you could drive to Clayton versus driving to Columbia. It was a special time.

“It all goes back to basketball. It is the core.”

Stanley Jackson Jersey Signed

Basketball is a game of numbers and statistics, but can one number sum up a team’s outlook for an entire season? The Crossover attempted to give you the most important number for all 30 teams as the 2019-20 NBA season begins.

Chicago Bulls: 21
It’s unreasonable to expect young big men unaccustomed to the rigors of the NBA to never miss time, but last season Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. played only 21 games together. Any path to relevance for the young Bulls involves their 2017 and ’18 lottery picks joining forces on the court.

As a rookie Carter had the fourth-worst offensive rating (97.8) among players 6′ 10″ or taller. He barely took threes (32), didn’t make them when he did (six) and generally looked the 19-year-old kid he was. But he did have the second-best defensive rating on the team, was solid as a rebounder and, with a season of experience, is sure to improve. Markkanen, 22, lived up to his reputation as an offense-first, defense-optional player. He might never be able to switch onto smaller guards, but if he is anything close to the next Dirk, the Bulls won’t mind any defensive shortcomings, especially with Carter’s play on that end. —Joe Wilkinson

Cleveland Cavaliers: 3
Collin Sexton’s defensive rating last season was 118.1. The good news: There were two players who were worse. The bad news: They were both teammates (Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson). Yes, the Cavaliers had the three worst defenders in the NBA, which goes a long way to explaining Cleveland’s team rating of 117.6, the worst in history.

In May the Cavs hired coach John Beilein, a 66-year-old with no pro experience. What he does have is a reputation, burnished at Michigan, for leading teams with stifling defenses. Last year’s Wolverines gave up 58.3 points per game, second best in the nation. Sexton had the misfortune of playing point guard, the league’s most star-stacked position. This year he’ll share that spot with another newcomer. For the Cavs to avoid the cellar, Beilein’s system will have to translate—and No. 5 pick Darius Garland will have to have a smoother transition to the NBA than Sexton. —Joe Wilkinson

Washington Wizards: 36.9
It’s the only intriguing question about the team: Will Bradley Beal finish the season in Washington? He clocked a league-high 36.9 minutes per game in 2018–19 while his backcourtmate, John Wall, played just 32 games due to multiple Achilles injuries. Despite Beal’s best efforts—he set career highs in points, rebounds and assists—the Wizards missed the playoffs two years after a 49-win season.

Beal, 26, is both the Wizards’ only hope at achieving respectability and their only means to reap valuable assets for a rebuild. Rookie GM Tommy Sheppard is in a tough spot. Wall will likely miss all of this season, and his massive contract (he’s owed $171 milion through 2023, when he will be 33) limits the team’s flexibility. Giving up on Beal, who is signed through 2020–21, wouldn’t be easy, but unless Sheppard can find a way to get out from under Wall’s deal, it could wind up being the only move he can make. —R.N.

Miami Heat: 6.4
As evidenced by the 6.4 points per fourth quarter he scored last season—even on a star-studded Sixers team—Jimmy Butler is a bona fide No. 1 option, a role that is neatly carved out for him on the less top-heavy Heat. Miami missed the playoffs last season in large part because it needed a closer: The Heat outscored their opponents by an average of 0.5 of a point in the first three quarters but had a deficit of 0.7 in the fourth. Butler’s fourth-quarter output was the 12th-best in the league; the Heat’s leader, the since-retired Dwyane Wade, was 45th (4.6 per game).

With Butler as the clear frontman, Erik Spoelstra won’t have to tinker with the rotation as much as he did last season. The 6′ 8″ veteran will also make life easier for his teammates, who won’t be asked to play above their station. Butler brings a lot to the Heat, but at the start of the season, simply balancing the roster could be his biggest contribution. —R.N.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics: 30.8
A large share of criticism surrounding Kyrie Irving last season was his ball dominance. Jayson Tatum’s and Jaylen Brown’s development slowed after a breakout postseason in 2017–18, when Irving was out injured. Boston’s secondary scorers spent much of the season isolated on the wing waiting for a catch-and-shoot opportunity. As Irving cooked, Boston watched.

Irving is now in Brooklyn, replaced by former Hornet Kemba Walker. Does that mean Boston will feature a more egalitarian offense in 2019–20 under Walker? Don’t assume so. Walker’s usage rate of 30.8 was actually higher than Irving’s 28.6. And it was especially pronounced late in games. His 126 shots in clutch situations (within five points in the final five minutes) led the league. Charlotte’s dreadful roster is at least partly responsible for Walker’s late-game volume, but don’t assume a marked change in Boston’s offense to close games without Irving. —M.S.

Portland Trail Blazers: 167
The most successful ride of the Damian Lillard era was marked by 53 wins, playoff theatrics (Oklahoma City would never be the same) and a trip to the conference finals. There’s little question that the backcourt tandem of Lillard and CJ McCollum has been the driving force behind the Blazers’ success. In turn, much of the defensive responsibilities had fallen to their workmanlike wings: Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless and Jake Layman, who combined to start 167 games last season. All three are gone, and their roles will be filled by the inconsistent Rodney Hood; 21-year-old Zach Collins, who’s better suited playing center than power forward; and bargain-bin additions of Mario Hezonja, and Anthony Tolliver. This suggests a defensive regression for a defense that was just in the middle of the pack. Is Portland still a playoff team? Probably. But in the West, there are few guarantees. —Jeremy Woo

Brooklyn Nets: 40.3
Kevin Durant hasn’t publicly explained his decision to join the Nets, but as general manager Sean Marks recalled, after Durant signed, he told the organization, “I love the system. I love how you guys play.” What’s to love? Perhaps it’s this: Brooklyn took a three-pointer on 40.3% of shot attempts last season, the fourth-highest mark in the league. The Nets’ three-point frequency in 2015–16 was 23.1%, the third-lowest.

Kenny Atkinson took over as coach one year later, and Brooklyn has now finished in the top five in three-point frequency for three consecutive seasons. Atkinson’s run-and-gun approach will also appeal to Kyrie Irving, who made the 13th-most pull-up jumpers last season. Irving’s quick (and accurate) trigger will elevate Brooklyn’s offense, and it will only get better in 2020–21, when Durant should be healthy following his Achilles injury. —M.S.

Los Angeles Lakers: 27
Through last Christmas the Lakers had the NBA’s ninth-best record, LeBron James was meshing well with his new teammates, and on Dec. 25, L.A. blew out the defending champion Warriors. During the game, though, James injured his groin, causing him to miss the largest chunk of time of his career and sending the Lakers into a tailspin.

All in all, James sat out 27 games. After giving up much of their depth to acquire Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously can’t afford many nicks and bruises this season. A more pressing concern, however, is the consistent availability of the 34-year-old James. The mileage on his body is absurd: Counting the playoffs, he has played 7,760 more minutes than 42-year-old Vince Carter. Logic would dictate that at some point LeBron will start to wear down. If that happens soon, then the pressure shifts to Davis, who never took New Orleans past the second round. —R.N.

New York Knicks: 161
There’s no greater misery in the NBA than Knicks fandom: six straight losing seasons, a 20-year Finals drought and an endless stream of p.r. disasters. Last summer brought a double whammy of pain, as New York missed out on both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. The franchise may be at its nadir.

Now, a dash of optimism. The Knicks drafted RJ Barrett of Duke with the No. 3 pick, then signed Julius Randle in July. Yet it may be a former -second-round center who will have the Garden buzzing. Last season 7′ 1″ Mitchell Robinson blocked 161 shots in 66 games (a league-high 5.6 per 100 possessions). Only Pau Gasol has swatted more as a rookie this century, and that was in twice as many minutes. Another miserable season awaits, but Robinson, who also showed signs of being a weapon around the basket, serves as a reminder that it’s not only big-name players who can make big impacts. —M.S.

Toronto Raptors: 104.1
Expectations are reset in Toronto after Kawhi Leonard’s departure to the Clippers, Stanley Jackson though the Raptors won’t need to undergo a full makeover to remain competitive. They weren’t just functional without Leonard—they went 17–5, a 63-win pace (albeit with a favorable schedule). Toronto’s superstar exodus won’t cause a collapse into tankdom.

Surprisingly, Toronto’s D shone brightest when missing one of the best stoppers in the game. Without Leonard, the Raptors had a defensive rating of 104.1, a mark that would have ranked first last season. Toronto should hover near the top five in defensive rating again. Pascal Siakam anchors a crop of long, switchable wings, including OG Anunoby, who didn’t play in the postseason. Marc Gasol is a former Defensive Player of the Year. And Kyle Lowry is perhaps the smartest point guard in the league not named Chris Paul. —M.S.

Milwaukee Bucks: 1
From Brook Lopez to Trevon Duval to Christian Wood, all 24 players who suited up for Milwaukee last season made at least one three-pointer. Mike Budenholzer won Coach of the Year partially because he turned the Bucks into the second-most fearsome long-range shooting team in the league (after the Rockets). Milwaukee hit 53.9% more treys than in 2017–18, which helped spread the floor and allowed Giannis Antetokounmpo to terrorize opposing defenses.

Milwaukee’s proficiency from behind the arc lifted it to the top of the regular-season standings, but it’s no lock to earn that spot again. While the team’s three-point volume was impressive, its percentage was a pedestrian 14th in the NBA. Eric Bledsoe, Pat Connaughton
and George Hill can get buckets attacking close-outs, but with Malcolm Brogdon now in Indiana,
those shaky-shooting guards will be in the spotlight even more. —Joe Wilkinson

Indiana Pacers: 106.0
The Pacers were dismissed as a postseason contender on Jan. 23 when All-Star guard Victor Oladipo went down with a right-knee injury, but they battled to the fifth seed in the East. How’d they do it? Well, not with their 18th-ranked offense. It was with a defense that had a rating of 106.0, third best in the league. Indiana forced turnovers on 15.8% of possessions, the second-highest rate, yet allowed free throws at the sixth-lowest rate (.243). And all without Oladipo, the team’s best defender.

Oladipo will miss the first couple of months, but the Pacers could still improve defensively. Their two biggest departures were Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young, and the team’s defense was better when they were off the court. Indiana added Malcolm Brogdon, a workmanlike stopper at either guard spot. The Pacers may not be a lot of fun to watch, but their efficient and tenacious D should keep them in the playoff picture. —Joe Wilkinson

Oklahoma City Thunder: 15
During the most hectic NBA offseason ever, no team underwent a more profound sea change than the Thunder. Forced to trade All-NBA forward Paul George, then iconic point guard Russell Westbrook, they needed to squeeze out every possible drop of value. Enter GM Sam Presti, whose shrewd feel for negotiating and timing yielded not only veterans who will keep Oklahoma City relevant in the short term but also the best long-term assets imaginable. After sending George to the Clippers for Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul, the Thunder own the league’s richest treasure chest of draft choices: as many as 15 first-round picks in the next six drafts, Stanley Jackson Jersey Signed plus a pair of swaps. With all those selections there’s no need to tank, and Paul, Gallinari and Steven Adams will keep things competitive. Presti has turned what looked like a no-win situation into something resembling a W. —Jeremy Woo

Billy Hassett Jersey Signed

Brian Hassett is looking for the Capital Region’s Jerry Colangelo.

The Phoenix philanthropist and former owner of the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks gave the first-ever $1 million gift to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.

That donation brought awareness to the nonprofit and helped Hassett, then the organization’s CEO, double the annual fundraising campaign to $48 million.

OK, $1 million donors may not be a dime a dozen here, but Hassett is on the hunt for new and bigger funding streams for the United Way of the Greater Capital Region. “I’ve always loved separating people from their money for a good cause.”

You were quite a handful in your younger years.

It wasn’t my background—my parents were upper middle class. I was hanging around with the wrong people. We were “borrowing” cars when I was 11 or 12. I think I’m the only one from the original neighborhood who’s living, or on the outside.

“Outside” meaning not in jail?

Yes. Here’s a Christmas story I remember: I was out of high school six months and my best friend was sent to jail. I couldn’t raise enough money for his bail, so I went to a Brother—I graduated from a Catholic school—and he put up the rest of the money. That friend wound up dying of liver cancer at a young age.

My attraction to nonprofits is, in part, because I grew up in places like the Boys & Girls Club. They were a big influence on me. I became a Big Brother in college and never really looked back.

Plus, philanthropy runs in your family.

I had two fairly famous uncles. The first, Buddy Hassett, played pro ball as a first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Boston Braves and eventually the Yankees. One of his coaches was Babe Ruth.

The other, Billy Hassett, played for the first NBA championship team, the Minneapolis Lakers.

Both were very active in their communities. They’d raise money for their church, the Boy Scouts, whomever needed money.

Your LinkedIn profile shows you standing beside shock-rocker Alice Cooper. What’s the story there?

When I took over as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona, the organization was in big financial trouble, and I knew we really needed to do something off the wall. I took ideas from two other places that had used similar techniques to raise money, and came up with “Guitar Mania.”

We got backing from [guitar maker] Fender, had a boat company build the guitars and enlisted all these celebrities to paint 10-foot Stratocaster guitars for a public art project. We auctioned the guitars and raised $1 million.

Alice Cooper, who lives in Phoenix and is nothing like his public persona, by the way, wound up chairing the project. He has his own Phoenix foundation, Solid Rock, for at-risk youths. He’s very spiritual, actually.

A lot of celebrities painted one of the Stratocasters: Eddie Van Halen and his son, Wolfgang; Nickelback; Wayne Gretzky; Sen. John McCain; Stevie Nicks, Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns.

Dennis Leary actually drove his guitar up the hill to his house because the delivery driver wouldn’t do it.

Things were so bad when you took over that you were willing to put your own home on the line.

Let’s just say that I had a conversation with the bank that I would consider taking out a second mortgage. I’d just come on, and I wanted the bank to know I was committed to the organization.

The bank gave us a line of credit and became one of our biggest supporters.

What are your plans to grow the local United Way?

We raise $7.9 million through our annual campaign. I really believe we can raise that to $15 million in the next five years or so.

It all comes down to asking people. You can’t keep going back to Mr. and Mrs. Golub (owners of the Price Chopper grocery chain).

Only three or four local law firms contribute to the United Way. Only 300 local companies give to the United Way. I don’t want to paint a picture that people here aren’t generous. I don’t think that’s the case. They just have to be asked.

We also have to start thinking more regionally. People in Saratoga may not be so inclined to support a homeless center in Albany because the donor doesn’t understand what’s needed in the community.

The United Way spends the entire year looking at this. I’m working to increase our percentage of “unrestricted” funds, which would give us more ability to direct money where it’s needed locally.

How are things going in the three months you’ve had the job?

It’s a little tough in these economic times, but we’re making progress. For example, someone pointed me to a local individual who flies under the radar, but is very generous. I asked him to donate, and to please not designate the funds to a specific cause. He gave $75,000, which can be used at the discretion of the United Way.

We have only 15 $10,000 donors in this community. I think there are at least 200 to 300 people in the area that could contribute that much a year. My goal is to do better.

Really, though, Albany isn’t Phoenix.

We might not have the same celebrity contingent, but there’s plenty of potential.

I was told that the Saratoga Performing Arts Center was organized by a couple of families that wanted a world-class entertainment center. Look what happened.

Agencies really need us now. Everybody wanted less government. We’re getting it. And along with that comes casualties. This is America and hunger is a big issue in America. There’s something wrong with that.

There are 400 to 500 female war veterans in the Capital Region who are homeless. What’s going to happen when we pull out of Afghanistan?

About 80 percent of our donors are people who give $50 to $100 a year through payroll deductions. They get it because they’re often the people closest to the need.

One of the reasons you moved to Albany was to be closer to your son, Kevin. You’re also a cancer survivor who should stay out of the hot Phoenix sun.

It was diagnosed 15 years ago during a routine physical. There were big spots on my back that were taken care of, then they started showing up on my face and head.

I’ve had topical chemo where they burn off a layer of skin. I shave my head to keep an eye on things.

People in Scottsdale pay lots of money for what I’ve had done because it makes you look younger. I’m just trying to stay healthy. But if younger is a benefit, I’ll take it.

Quick info:

Brian Hassett
Age: 57
Title: CEO, United Way of the Greater Capital Region
Born: The Bronx, grew up in Utica
Resides: Clifton Park
Educated: Niagara University, bachelor’s in political science; University of Rhode Island, master’s in public administration

Marquis Teague Jersey Signed

Note: This piece is part two of an ongoing series breaking down who we project to be the top 50 G League players for the upcoming 2019-20 season. In an easier way to select these players, we looked for players that have already impressed against solid pro competition, whether they were in the G League, elite European leaguers and even the NBA. That was due to how difficult it could be to project how former college players can perform at the G League level. If you’re just stumbling this piece, you can go here to read part one!

That was evident last year with former DII prospect Haywood Highsmith and 2018 All-American Trevon Bluiett. Highsmith shined at the G League level to the point where he landed a two-way with Meanwhile, Bluiett struggled due to getting inconsistent playing time with the Westchester Knicks and SLC Stars

40. Levi Randolph – Canton Charge: 14.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals on 48% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc on 4.3 attempts per game for the Canton Charge of the G League
For the third time in this article, we make our way to Canton and look at a member of the Charge roster. Although that may cause some repetition, Levi Randolph is a great veteran wing that definitely deserves a spot on this list. The biggest reason for that deals with his tremendous outside shooting as his 45% three-point shooting percentage stood as the fifth most efficient average in the entire G League. He’s able to maintain that tremendous efficiency either through catch-and-shoot or working off the dribble.

Perimeter shooting isn’t the only way that the veteran can contribute on the offensive end as he’s also able to shine as a post-up threat on the right block and attacking closeouts. Those traits allowed him to be a vital part of the Charge’s offense. His importance is shown by how the team was 2.4 points better per 100 possessions when he was on the court (104.4 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines (102.0 points per 100).

Randolph’s role as a consistent offensive weapon should allow him to maintain his status as an extremely key part of a Canton Charge team that has the talent to make a run in the Eastern Conference.

39. Jordan McLaughlin – Iowa Wolves (two-way with Minnesota): 15 points, 4.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game on 42% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 6.1 attempts per game for the Long Island Nets of the G League
Shortly after the end of the 2018-19 season, we did a series breaking down the twenty G League prospects that should sign two-way deals during that off-season. While a lot of those players ended up going overseas or signing exhibit 10 deals, there were a few players on that list that actually were snagged on those type of contracts. Former Long Island Nets guard Jordan McLaughlin is one of those guys, as he signed a two-way deal with the Timberwolves on July 20th.

As we described in that piece from June, McLaughlin spent his rookie year developing into the type of player that NBA team would love to have. For one, he’s tremendous on the defensive end through his work as one of the league’s best ball hawks. In addition to his great defense, the USC alum was a total package on the offensive end through being a tremendous on-ball driver, efficient facilitator (maintained a 2.7 Ast/TO ratio), to improving as a perimeter shooter. That development came over the course of the 2018-19 season as he started it off shooting 31% on 7.2 attempts per game from opening night to New Year’s Day. From that point until the end of the season, he shot 36% on 5.2 attempts per game.

While his great rookie year allowed McLaughlin to get a two-way deal with Minnesota, the 23-year-old definitely has an opportunity to keep boosting his stock as a player through his work with the Iowa Wolves. Despite only being a 2nd year player, expect the guard to take more of the team’s scoring load due to how young the Iowa Wolves will be.

38. Cam Reynolds – Wisconsin Herd (two-way with Milwaukee): 16 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists on 46% from field and 42% from 3 on 7.1 attempts in 28 minutes per game with Stockton Kings of the G League
One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2018-19 G League season was 6’8 rookie forward Cam Reynolds. When he entered Stockton Kings training camp last year, he honestly stood as forgettable rookie due to his status as an inconsistent shooter with Tulane University. However, it didn’t take long for him to make G League fans and writers take notice as he immediately looked like a different player during his first month with the Stockton Kings.

In November, he averaged 14.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists on 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 6.7 attempts per game. That mix of volume and perimeter efficiency was honestly surprising considering how he shot only 33% from 3 during his four-year college career.

That progression continued to the point where he was averaging an unbelievable 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1 steal on 56% from field and 51% from 3 on 8.2 attempts per game during five games in March. The forward didn’t have a chance to improve on that impressive stretch as he signed a 10-day deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 9th. Reynolds impressed during his limited time with Minnesota as he averaged 5 points and 1.6 rebounds on 42% from the field and 41% from 3 on 2.7 attempts per game.

Although the Timberwolves placed him on waivers before the official start to NBA free agency, he didn’t have to wait long to get picked up as the Bucks signed him to a two-way on July 22nd. Through that deal, he’ll likely spend most of the 2019-20 season in the G League with the Herd. With that team, the 6’8 forward will be in position to improve on that rookie year as he’ll work alongside Milwaukee’s talented two-way guard Frank Mason.

37. Demetrius Jackson – South Bay Lakers: 15.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game on 44% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc on 4.4 attempts per game in 66 total G League games:
Since leaving Notre Dame after his junior year to declare for the NBA Draft, Jackson has been caught in the proverbial pickle between the NBA and G League. Although that journey did start out in the Association, as he was selected with the 45th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Like a lot of players taken that late, Jackson never got much of an opportunity with the team as he played a grand total of 17 minutes with the Celtics before getting waived by the team in the following July.

In the following two seasons, Jackson stood in two-way purgatory with the Houston Rockets in 2017 and the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018-19. He was solid for both teams as he put up solid numbers in both locations. With Delaware and the RGV Vipers, he averaged 15.7 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals on 46% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc in 34 total games.

Now in his fourth year as a pro, Jackson will look to build upon that solid stretch as an affiliate player for the South Bay Lakers. He might actually get a chance to improve his stock as a scorer as he’ll be working alongside pass-first guard David Stockton. In the moments he’s working as the team’s main facilitator, the young guard will have weapons to dish it off like Kostas Antetokounmpo, Zach Norvell, Jordan Caroline and Reggie Hearn.

36. CJ Wilcox – Fort Wayne Mad Ants: 15.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 47% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 6.5 attempts per game in a total of 41 G League games
For the first time since the 2016-17 season, Wilcox will enter the month of November healthy and ready for the upcoming season. Leading into the 2017-18 season, he suffered a right knee injury during training camp as a two-way player with the Trail Blazers roster which prevented him from stepping on the court until February 13th.

That season debut came with the Santa Cruz Warriors, where he 10.4 points, 2 rebounds on 45% from the field and 38% from 3 on 5.7 attempts in only 10 games. His brief run with Santa Cruz would later seem like a bright spot as the guard missed the 2018-19 season after suffering a torn Achilles during training camp with the Indiana Pacers.

One year after dealing with that misery, Wilcox will make his return to the G League as an affiliate player with the Indiana Pacers. Is it the best idea to get optimistic about a player that has struggled with injuries at the rate that the 6’5 guard has? Probably not. However, the veteran previously showed signs of brilliance back in the 2015-16 G League season with the Canton Charge and Bakersfield Jam (now Northern Arizona Suns).

He was the pinnacle of efficiency during that run where he averaged 18.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 46% from the field and 42% from 3 on 7.8 attempts per game. In that stint, he was a well-rounded offensive weapon that can be efficient from the perimeter, probe to the paint and even facilitate. After an off-season and two training camps where he was able to rehab and get back into shape, I’m personally betting that CJ Wilcox will return to that level as a member of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

35. Chris Chiozza – Capital City Go-Go (two-way): 13.2 points, 7.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game on 44% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 4.3 attempts per game with the Capital City Go-Go and RGV Vipers:
To say that Chris Chiozza’s first month as a pro was lackluster would definitely be an understatement. During the month of November, he had an intense battle with inefficiency by averaging 10.6 points, 7.7 assists and 5 rebounds on 35% from the field and 24% from 3 on 4.7 attempts per game. For a lot of rookies, they might’ve lost their confidence after that rough first month.

However, that was the opposite for the Florida alum as his efficiency both grew and remained steady for the rest of the year. From December 1st through the end of the regular season, he averaged 13.7 points, 7.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game on 45% from the field and 44% from 3 on 4.3 attempts per game. That improved production caught the attention of the Houston Rockets, who signed the young guard to a 10-day deal with the Houston Rockets. He stayed with the organization for the remainder of the year making rare appearances with the RGV Vipers, their G League affiliate.

Similar to a lot of G Leaguers that get signed to late season contracts, Chiozza was waived by Houston once the calendar turned to July. It took until September 26th for him to figure out his immediate basketball future, as that date represented when the Wizards signed him to a training camp contract. Almost a month later on October 21st, that deal turned into a two-way contract. This will allow Chiozza to return to the Go-Go while having an opportunity to spend up to 45 days in the NBA with Washington.

34. Norvel Pelle – Delaware Blue Coats (two-way): 11.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.9 blocks per game on 70% from the field.
The fact that Norvel Pelle is on this top 50 list is a real testament to how hard the 6’10 big has worked to improve his game during his career. When he started his relationship with the G League back in the 2013-14 season, Pelle was a 20-year-old kid looking to continue his basketball career after being academically ineligible to play college ball.

During that year with the Delaware 87ers, he showed his upside by averaging 5.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in only 13 minutes per game. That playing time was limited due to Pelle struggling to actually stay on the court as he had 2.9 fouls per game. Those struggles persisted when he embarked on an overseas career where he played in Italy and Lebanon with Homenetmen Beirut, OpenJobMetis Varese and Fiat Torino from 2015-16 through 2017-18.

Following that three-year run in Europe, he returned to the United States in 2018-19 to play with the Delaware Blue Coats. Although he couldn’t totally push his foul troubles to the background, Pelle still had his best year as a pro. In only 23 minutes per game, he averaged 11.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.9 blocks on 70% from the field. Those numbers allowed him to finish 4th in the G League in blocks per game and maintain the league’s 2nd best True Shooting Percentage (72% TS%).

Although he wasn’t called up during that season, the Philadelphia 76ers still kept him on their radar. That was evident during the summer when they signed him to a two-way contract. This deal should allow Pelle to get his first taste of NBA regular season action, which is crazy to believe as someone that watched him struggle to stay on the court back in 2013.

33. Jemerrio Jones – Wisconsin Herd: 9.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals on 54% from the field in 25 minutes per game with the South Bay Lakers in the G League
4.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game on 36% from the field in 24 minutes per game in the NBA with the LA Lakers

Although Cam Reynolds was a pleasant surprise during the 2018-19 G League season, the former New Mexico State guard takes the crown for the player that absolutely came out of nowhere. Getting selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2019 NBA G League Draft, the 6’5 wing was immediately able to stand out as one of the most unique players in the league. Although he was in the starting lineup only six times and averaged 25 minutes per game, Jones was still able to stand as a special player due to being a tenacious defender and amazing rebounder.

His great play on defense is shown by how worse opposing teams six points worse when Jones was on the court (89.2 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines or called up (95.6 points per 100). As a rebounder, his 3.4 boards per game were more than the likes of Alan Williams, Amida Brimah, Chinanu Onuaku, and Chris Boucher. That great production ultimately allowed Jones to get called up by the Los Angeles Lakers on March 31st.

During his brief six-game run with the team, he transferred his rebounding and defense over to the NBA as he found a way to average 8.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 24 minutes per game. While the 6’5 guard’s offensive efficiency was awful compared to his run with South Bay, the ability to defend and rebound at the same rate shows that he honestly has a future at the NBA level.

After an off-season that saw him get traded to the Wizards and then get waived by the team on October 16th, Jones was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks to an Exhibit 10 contract before getting waived just a few hours later. These moves ultimately leads to Jones’ current spot as a member of the Wisconsin Herd, where he’ll join the talented duo of Frank Mason and Cam Reynolds. With those guys likely to handle most of the scoring load, expect to see Jones focus on improving his work as a rebounder, facilitator, and defender.

32. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – Long Island Nets (two-way): 5.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists on 39% from the field and 32% from 3 on 2.5 attempts per game in 171 career NBA games
For most NBA teams, they use their two-way slots on high upside 2nd round/undrafted rookies or players that stood out in the G League. However, the Brooklyn Nets have taken a different path with the concept that was introduced for the 2017-18 NBA season. While there are examples of them following that path with Jacob Wiley and Theo Pinson, they’ve taken a few detours with Yakuba Outtara in 2017-18 and Alan Williams in 2018-19.

One year after signing the experienced center, they’ve basically put a middle finger to the normal way of using two-ways by signing Henry Ellenson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who have played a combined 247 games in the NBA. 171 of those have come from Luwawu-Cabarrot, who bounced around with 76ers, Bulls and Thunder after getting selected by Philadelphia with the 24th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

As is probably evident from him bouncing around with three teams in that amount of years, Luwawu-Cabarrot wasn’t productive in the NBA. His efficiency took a stumble while being unable to contribute in the ways that were brought up in an article on him from 2016.

While those three years of lackluster play might remove most people’s optimism about a player, hope still rests in my heart. Is some of that due to not wanting to be proven wrong on the praise that was heaped at him three years ago? Definitely! However, he’s still an athletic 6’6 guard that plays great perimeter defense and is the owner of a pretty jumper. Those tools could ultimately led to him playing great basketball as a go-to guy for the Long Island Nets.

31. Marquis Teague – Memphis Hustle: 15.6 points, 5.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds on 43% from the field and 37% from 3 on 2.7 attempts per game in 161 career G League games.
For full transparency, Marquis Teague wasn’t part of this top 50 list just thirty minutes before I write this section. That change occurred after seeing ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski report that the Orlando Magic have signed Amile Jefferson to a standard two-year contract. While Jefferson was part of the list from the time of the rough draft to earlier today, him getting signed to a guaranteed NBA deal automatically makes him ineligible to this list dedicated to G Leaguers.

After that realization came, there was a fair bit of anxiety about making changes to a list where ⅕ of it is already set in stone. However, that worry subsided after taking a second look at Teague’s RealGM page as the eyes caught his great 2017-18 performance with the Memphis Hustle. Averaging 17.6 points, 6.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game on 45% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc on 3.2 attempts per game. In addition to those great averages, he also maintained a fantastic 2.7 Ast/TO ratio. To be honest, Teague probably would’ve been a G League All-Star if that still existed.

Following a year in South Korea, Teague returns to the G League with the Memphis Hustle. The guard will have a great chance to recapture that 2017-18 magic through being the likely starting point guard for opening night. In addition to that, he’ll have a lot of weapons to dish it off to which include: Dusty Hannahs, John Konchar, Yuta Watanabe, Jarrod Uthoff, Bennie Boatwright and Shaq Buchannan.