It’s been six years since new Memphis Hustle NBA G League head coach Brad Jones has been coaching at this level. Then it was known as the D League, when he led the Austin Toros to a league title in 2012 and the Utah Flash to the finals in 2009.
Today, Jones and his staff will be at DeSoto Central High School in Southaven with the Hustle, holding the final session of a series of local try-outs that are the beginning part of forming what will become the 2018-19 roster to play at the Landers Center in Southaven, starting this November.
Jones, who last year was the General Manager of the rival Iowa Wolves and a scout for the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he is happy to return to a region of the basketball world where he started.
“I’m very excited to be back in the Mid-South,” Jones said. “I grew up in Nashville, lived in Jackson and got my master’s from the University of Memphis, so that was a big plus.”
Jones forged a winning record with Austin and Utah, as in five combined seasons his coaching record was 148-118. His teams won two Western Conference championships. A total of 12 players got NBA call-ups during his coaching time, including current New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas.
The 1990 graduate of Lambuth University, where he was captain of the basketball team, was named the school’s Male Athlete of the Year and Scholar Athlete of the Year. Jones has also assisted in coaching at Lambuth, later became the school’s head coach and won two conference titles at the school.
The Memphis Hustle is his focus now and Jones said there’s some specific things he and his staff will look for during Saturday’s tryout, starting at 10 a.m. at DeSoto Central.
“First of all, we’re looking for the skill set,” Jones said. “We have a lot of guys who have played small college, we have some guys who haven’t played any college. Then we might have some guys who have player lower Division I level who are chasing that dream. We want to see skill set, how they interact in a professional setting with their teammates, maybe with the referees. We want guys who today show what they have but also in the framework of being a good teammate and a good professional.”
The G League is called by Jones “The League of Hope” and he is quick to say he’s fine with having players who “want to get out.”
“It’s so fun for me to be part of that process for those guys and have guys like we had in Austin, like Thomas,” said Jones. “Those are the fun stories and I hope we’ll find something like that this year. I would be shocked if we don’t find a guy or two that has a chance to make our team.”
In fact, four players will be offered NBA G League contracts after Saturday’s workout who will then be invited to the team’s training camp, the next step in selecting a final roster.
What that final product will become is one Jones is confident will attract a growing fan base to watch the team play at the Landers Center.
“We’ll be real involved in trying to get people out to see our product,” Jones said. “It’s the product, first of all, that’s going to sell it the best, but we want to be involved in the community, as well, just to let people know that we’re real people and we’re integrated into that area.”
Information on Saturday’s tryout is available at www.memphishustle.com and the tryout will run from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in the DeSoto Central High School gymnasium.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.