There are basketball players waiting by their phones, hoping for a call with a 901 area code right now.
They are among the more than 120 prospects who over two weekends last month took part in open tryouts the Memphis Hustle NBA G League franchise held at Christian Brothers University and at DeSoto Central High School in Southaven.
More than 70 of that number came to DeSoto Central Sept. 28 for the second open tryout session held under the team’s new head coach, Jason March.
“I couldn’t be happier for the turnout and seeing a lot of the local talent,” March said. “There’s a ton of local talent here and we’re excited to give them this opportunity.”
The phone call the players are waiting on is the one to come from March or someone with the Hustle/Grizzlies organization telling them they have been invited to the team’s training camp. Once there, the players have a shot at being on the team’s final roster for the regular season opener, which is Nov. 8 against the Texas Legends (Dallas).
Two of last year’s players, Jay-R Strowbridge and Nino Johnson, took part in open tryouts last season and at some point during the season were added to the roster.
For players like Cordarius Johnson, the opportunity to play is what it is all about.
“I was in training camp with the Hustle two years ago and this is my third time coming to the tryouts,” said Johnson, who has also tried out with the Erie Bayhawks. “I keep coming back for the opportunity to play in the G League. As long as I have the opportunity, I’m going to be here.“
The former Louisiana Tech player tried out with the Bayhawks in 2015 but was placed on waivers. The Hustle picked him up in the 2017 Annual NBA Development League Draft, but also placed him on waivers just before the start of the season.
LaQuavius Cotton is another hopeful waiting for that phone call. Cotton’s background has primarily come playing in Mississippi, from Mississippi Delta to Mississippi College and a senior year at Delta State.
But Cotton also spent a season with a Harlem Globetrotters team that toured the East Coast in 2017.
“It was fun, great entertainment, and it was good,” Cotton said. “It was more so on the entertainment side, but it was fun, with the tricks, the ball handling, the crazy shots and dunks, more for entertainment.”
Cotton calls this shot in the G League is his chance to further his career and possibly get to the NBA.
“We have a lot of guys, so the evaluation process is very in-depth and we are taking this very seriously,” said March. “We’ll take our time with it, it’s not a rush. We want to make sure we get the right guys, we’ll reach out and then go from there.”
G LEAGUE FREE THROW EXPERIMENT: The NBA G League says it will experiment with free throws this season, so look for it when you come to the Landers Center to watch the Hustle.
G League players will shoot one free throw each time they go to the charity stripe, but the point value of the shot depends on the type of foul.
The “and-one” free throw remains worth one point. However, a two-shot shooting foul will see one shot for two points. A three-point shooting foul will see one free throw attempted for three points.
The rule change is seen as a means to shorten the length of the game.
“I find it very interesting,” said March. “I think it is going to improve the pace of the game. I think fans will enjoy it and will be a great thing for our league and gives us something different to focus on.”
SCHEDULE TIME CHANGES: The Hustle also announced time changes for three of its home games at the Landers Center. The games on Nov. 15 against the Stockton Kings, Dec. 30 against the Agua Caliente Clippers and Dec. 31 against defending NBA G League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers will all tip-off at noon after being previously scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Time-Tribune.