The Memphis Hustle NBA G League basketball team started its training camp at FedExForum in Memphis on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Seventeen players are now on roster and that number will need to cut down to 12-13 before the start of the Hustle’s second season when they play at Rio Grande Valley on Saturday, Nov. 3. The team’s first home game is Friday, Nov. 9, also against the same RGV Vipers, starting at 7 p.m. at the Landers Center in Southaven.
Just one player from last year’s team is back in a Hustle uniform, backcourt sharpshooter Dusty Hannahs. The former Arkansas Razorback averaged 9.2 points a game for Memphis last season, but hit on 44.1 percent of three-point shots and was 90.5 percent accurate at the free throw line.
Among the new faces on the roster is second-round NBA draft choice Jevon Carter, sent down from the parent Grizzlies to get more playing time with the Hustle.
Another familiar name is former Memphis Tigers standout D.J. Stephens, playing on a two-way contract between the Grizzlies and Hustle. Undrafted out of college, Stephens has played professionally overseas and made three appearances with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013-14 NBA season.
“It’s another year of basketball for me,” Stephens said Tuesday. “It’s a great situation and a great opportunity, because it’s not like I’m just with the G League team. I’m connected with the Grizzlies as well, so it’s another opportunity to continue to grow.”
New coach Brad Jones said he was looking forward to working with his group of players.
“We have six guys, now seven with Jevon Carter, that have already been through the Grizzlies camp,” Jones said. “These guys have proven that they’re able to survive an NBA training camp.”
Another face on the floor Tuesday was 6-foot-9 forward Yuta Watanabe. The Japanese native played four years of college ball at George Washington University and is another two-way player with the Grizzlies.
Jones likened the start of training camp to the beginning of a new school year.
“We’ve got our new shoes and new uniforms and now we’ve gotta get into the classroom and figure this out, go to work and have a successful season,” Jones explained.
Training camp will run through Sunday at FedExForum, but there will be a Family Fun Day at Landers Center Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Players will be available for photos and autographs and a scrimmage will be held at 3 p.m.
HUSTLE HARD: The NBA G League announced this week this year’s Winter Showcase event, which brings all of the league’s teams together to play two games in front of NBA scouts, will be held Dec. 19-22 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. The Hustle will play Raptors 905 on Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. Central time and follow up against the Wisconsin Herd Thursday, Dec. 20 at 2:30 p.m. Central.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.