The BayHawks visit Grand Rapids in a 7 p.m. tipoff to open their 10th G League season.
After finishing his college career at Charlotte and going undrafted by NBA teams in 2013, Chris Braswell spent the next four years playing for professional teams in Japan, Finland, Cyprus, Turkey, South America and Switzerland.
A conversation with his agent this summer led Braswell to conclude that his best option, at age 27, was to return to the United States and try to get to the NBA through its expanding developmental system, the G League.
“I felt like I built up my game overseas the past four years and I was ready to try the NBA thing, and this was the way to do it,” said Braswell, whose presence on the BayHawks’ roster this fall provides a glimpse of the evolving view of the quality of basketball in the G League, and why the Atlanta Hawks, who will field a G League affiliate in Erie for the next two seasons, were eager to become a part of it two years before originally planned.
The latest iteration of the BayHawks, who are entering their 10th season with their sixth NBA affiliate, opens tonight at 7 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a roster that includes a handful of veteran players like Braswell and several fresh faces making their professional debuts.
First-year head coach Josh Longstaff, a former assistant with the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder, said the BayHawks wrapped up training camp this week with the understanding that the Hawks will be paying particularly close attention to what happens this season with their new operations in Erie as NBA teams increasingly turn to the G League as a pipeline for prospects.
“I think for the players this is exciting,” Longstaff said. “Hopefully some NBA eyes take a look at some of these guys and see the potential.”
In addition to Braswell, at 6feet 9 inches the only center listed on the BayHawks’ opening-night roster, Longstaff will develop a rotation from a group that includes rookies like first-round G League draft pick Jeremy Hollowell, who starred collegiately near Atlanta at Georgia State, and experienced G League stars like Josh Magette, an NBA guard who led the league in assists last season with the Los Angeles D Fenders.
“I’ve always been a big assist guy, and it’s kind of been my way of making a living,” said Magette, a two-way contract player who was with the Hawks for training camp and appeared in five NBA games before joining the BayHawks this week. “A lot of these guards nowadays want to score 25 points, but I just try to be a different kind of player in that way and get others involved while also creating for myself.”
Longstaff said he and his staff kept the focus as simple as possible during the run-up to the season, emphasizing enegy and consistent effort with so much ground to cover and so many new faces.
Among them are Daesung Lee, who played professionally in his native South Korea the past three years after spending one season at BYU-Hawaii. A polite, 27-year-old point guard who says he is the only Korean-born player in the NBA or G League right now, Lee apologizes for his English and explains that he returned to the U.S. because he believes the G League provides the best shot for players like him.
“It’s my dream to be in the NBA,” Lee said. “Since I was 10, I’ve been dreaming of this moment.”
John Dudley can be reached at 870-1677 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNdudley.