Almost every child shooting baskets in their driveway or in an empty gym dreams of playing in the NBA.
Grown men still try to do whatever it takes to stay in the game, and this was readily apparent during the Utah Flash’s tryouts at OpenCourt in Lehi last week.
“I think there are some guys that we definitely can take to training camp out of this,” Flash Coach Brad Jones said.
Over 30 players turned up, hoping to show the Flash brass they have what it takes, and Jones hopes to find a jewel for training camp that begins on Nov. 11.
Surprisingly, no former BYU or Utah players tried out. But two with ties to UVSC showed up. Former Wolverine forward Pierre Thomas and Joshua Smith, with no college playing experience, decided to see if they had what it takes.
Well-known to UVSC fans as a fixture on the team, Thomas helped lay the foundations of the Wolverines transition from a junior college to the Division I level. He knows he faced an adjustment in his first pro tryout after taking time off to finish his degree.
“Since I haven’t really been playing organized ball for about a year, I have been doing a lot of workouts trying to get myself back into shape,” Thomas said.
The odds were a bit against him as he was fighting back a flu bug. “I am a bit under the weather, so I am trying to fight through it and play the best I can.”
Smith said he has played basketball since he was little and just likes to play. “I just love the game of basketball and I thought I’d give it my best shot,” Smith said.
He certainty isn’t doing it for the big bucks. The average salary for a D-League player is around $20,000.
With a small family, plus being in an expensive degree program, Smith knows that the small amount of money D-League players take home compared with even the minimum amount an NBA can take home looks good.
“Hopefully I can use basketball to pay for school,” Smith said.
Some players obviously looked like they had trouble competing, but Jones liked what he saw.
“I am definitely pleased with the level of talent,” Jones said. “Some of them are struggling with being in shape. But there are some good players here.”
Players came from around the country, with experience ranging from playing a little in high school to regulars in the minor-league circuit.
Some of the players with a legitimate shot included Jackson Marlow, who previously played with the Arkansas RimRockers D-League team two years ago, and CBA sharpshooter David Bell.
Marlow immediately noticed what 4,500 foot elevations along the Wasatch Front can do to your game.
“Shoot, everything is tough up here whenever the altitude hits you,” Marlow said. “You feel pretty good for the first five minutes and then it just wears on you.”
One player is guaranteed a spot in camp and Jones said several others also could make the first cut.
“I know we have to submit a list of five to the D-League office,”
Jones said. “I think what we’re going to do is come up with a list of our top 10, and then kind of go from there and see what happens.”