Talking D-League With Blog Talk BayHawk

Monday, June 21, 2010

Check out the Project Spurs podcast today, featuring yours truly! You may recall I spoke with the guys at Project Spurs months ago when Cedric Jackson was called up to San Antonio. Well, they called me back again last week to talk Austin Toros and D-League matters as they pertain to the Spurs. Much thanks to Jeff Garcia and Michael De Leon for inviting me on for the interview.

Things have been quiet around here lately, and it will stay that way for most of the D-League's offseason, but I'll be back with more regular posts as we draw nearer to the season. I may also write an occasional post regarding NBA Summer League action, particularly if there is noteworthy information about Erie BayHawks players.

In the meantime, you can catch me every Thursday at D-League Digest, where I am maintaining my presence with a weekly posting to supplement the great work Steve Weinman does there on a regular basis. Check out my recent articles with the links below:

2009-10 Players in Review: Michael Sweetney

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The addition of Michael Sweetney gave the BayHawks in mid-March provided an interesting stretch run of games. Teamed with the 300-pound John Bryant, Sweetney—listed at a very generous 260—gave Erie another low-post scoring option.

The former NBA lottery pick showed he still has a formidable offensive skill set, including deft footwork in the post and a feathery touch on his 15-18 foot jumper. In 9 games with the BayHawks, Sweetney averaged 13.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game while shooting a team-best 63.6 percent over that stretch.

He scored in double figures in 7 of his 9 appearances and made it clear that he knows how to handle himself on the offensive end. The problem is simply weight and conditioning. He did not look comfortable in his own jersey. It was tough watching him get up and down the court. And defensively, he really struggled to guard anyone outside of the lane, particularly when teams dragged him out in high pick ‘n rolls.

The bottom line for Sweetney is that if he’s serious about his basketball future, he will spend this summer getting into shape. He could come back as is and put up decent stats for a year in the D-League, but in order to get a look from the NBA, he’s going to have to display a serious work ethic to go with his skill set.

2009-10 Players in Review: Jarvis Gunter

Monday, May 31, 2010

Jarvis Gunter averaged 13.6 minutes per game in 44 appearances with the BayHawks this season. Although he didn't score a lot, he led the team (among those who played at least 10 games) in field goal percentage at 61.2 percent.

Gunter was Erie's most athletic big man, a solid post defender, shot blocker and rebounder. His best game of the year came March 9 against Sioux Falls as he recorded season highs in both points (15) and rebounds (13) in helping Erie to a 116-93 victory.

Offensively is where his game has the most room for growth. He's a great finisher at the rim, but he has questionable hands and lacks a refined post-up game, which prevents him from seeing more playing time.

That said, Gunter brings energy and effort every time he sets foot on the court. Hustle, determination, grit–whatever you want to call it–Gunter has it. His all-out attitude on the court is what earned him minutes on a BayHawks team that started out with a loaded front court and later added the likes of Michael Sweetney. Gunter showed improvements from his rookie to sophomore season in the D-League, but the array of bigs on the BayHawks roster limited his opportunities to make a regular impact.

2009-10 Players in Review: Kyle Goldcamp

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If there was a team award for most improved player from the beginning to the end of the season, the BayHawks' Kyle Goldcamp would likely be named the winner. As the local kid–Goldcamp is from Pittsburgh but played his college ball at Division II Gannon University in Erie–there was a lot of added pressure and attention on Goldcamp during his rookie season with the BayHawks.

Many people thought just making the team was an accomplishment, and early in the season, it appeared like the coaches agreed as Goldcamp saw very little playing time. Then, just as Goldcamp seemed to be gaining some traction and earning some minutes, he was released from the team due to injury on Feb. 5. He was then reacquired Feb. 25, and he went on to log 20-plus minutes in eight of the team's final 12 games, including a season-high 36 minutes in the home finale against Springfield on April 2. In that game, Goldcamp tied his career highs in points (12) and blocks (2) while setting a new personal best with 3 steals. He also contributed with 8 rebounds as Erie won the game 107-90.

Goldcamp started each of the final five games for Erie and made 10 starts in his 32 appearances for the season. He finished the year averaging 3.3 points in 13.4 minutes per game on 50.4 percent shooting from the field.

The biggest takeaway from Goldcamp this season was his hustle and effort. He was a tenacious defender, the type of player that always got under the skin of whomever he was defending. Although he had his trouble with fouls (his 7.3 fouls per 48 minutes was the most among the BayHawks), he brought energy and effort every time he set foot on the court. He was also the best screener on the team, setting ferocious picks to free open his teammates.

Offensively, Goldcamp could benefit from a more polished post game and a better touch a la John Bryant from mid-range. He scored most of his points on put-backs, dunks, and layups. To be fair, though, the team didn't run many plays for him either.

All in all, I think it's safe to say that Goldcamp had a better-than-expected rookie campaign. The transition from D2 to the D-League is not an easy one to make, but after a slow start, Goldcamp adjusted well and made himself into a solid big man for the BayHawks capable of contributing on a regular basis. With the Erie connection, I know there are a lot of local fans hoping Goldcamp returns for a second season with the BayHawks. If he opts to return, I'm willing to bet the team would love to have him back.

2009-10 Players in Review: Cliff Clinkscales

Friday, May 21, 2010

Clinkscales is a solid backup point guard. He joined the BayHawks in late December and helped sure up a shaky backcourt. Clinkscales is an excellent decision maker. In fact, he led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.23).

He's a poor shooter (42.4 percent from the field, 1-9 from 3 for the season), and he lacks an explosive first step and the ability to finish strong at the rim. But he knows his role, and he does it well.

Clinkscales is a facilitator first and foremost. In a three-game stretch starting January 27, Clinkscales amassed 38 assists with just 7 turnovers. His smart play in December caught the eye of D-League Digest's Steve Weinman, causing him to write this high praise article, which inspired an entertaining dialogue in the comments section and throughout the season from other D-League bloggers (Hi Scott).

In truth, Clinkscales' ability level is somewhere between the way it's portrayed in Weinman's article and being the butt of jokes over at Ridicukous Upside. He is a solid backup point guard in the D-League. He won't make a lot of highlight reels, but he will make a lot of smart passes. He doesn't shoot like Blake Ahearn or drive like Cedric Jackson, but he's dependable, consistent performer capabale of giving some quality minutes and setting up a team's scorers in positions where they can be most effective.

2009-10 Players in Review: Ivan Harris

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ivan Harris tied with John Bryant for the most games played as a BayHawk this season with 49. Harris started 29 of those and served as the sixth man in many of his other appearances. His final season numbers were 12.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 32.2 minutes per game.

He finished first in 3-point attempts (183) and makes (66) among BayHawks. (Mike Gansey and Blake Ahearn exceeded his totals, but their numbers were split among two teams.) That works out to 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, which puts him 12th in the league among forwards who had at least 75 attempts. He also shot 55-64 (85.9 percent) from the free throw line, which was second on the team behind Blake Ahearn.

Harris' biggest problem was one of my biggest pet peeves all season long. He has a bad habit of stepping on the line and shooting a long two-pointer. I wish I had kept track of how many times this happened, but even if it was only once per game–and I'm pretty confident it happened more often than–that's 49 points he cost the team.

Foot position aside, Harris is a solid, if streaky, outside shooter. When he gets on a hot streak, he can be a really dangerous offensive weapon. He's a bit of a tweener at the forward position, not quite big enough to be a true power forward and not really quick enough to be a small forward, so that can be problematic at the defensive end.

I don't know if Harris will look to return for a third season with the BayHawks, especially if the role calls for him to come off the bench again. But I think that's what the team would expect of him if he chose to return. He's a good scoring forward, effective coming off the bench when the team needs a spark.

2009-10 Players in Review: Blake Ahearn

Friday, May 14, 2010

Although he played just 13 games as a BayHawk after arriving in a late-season trade from the Bakersfield Jam in exchange for Alade Aminu, Blake Ahearn was one of the most entertaining and productive players the team had this season.

The change of scenery obviously came as a blessing for Ahearn, a former D-League all-star. In 17 games with the Jam, he averaged just 14.3 points per game on 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 27.7 percent shooting from 3. In Erie, all of those numbers improved dramatically. As a BayHawk, Ahearn averaged 25.7 points per game, the most of any BayHawk who played at least 10 games. And his shooting percentages were much better: 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from 3.

He also upped his assists from 4.1 to 6.7 per game and became a real workhorse, averaging a staggering 45 minutes per game during his time with the BayHawks.

Ahearn really went off during the month of March. Four times he played the full 48 minutes. Four times he hit at least four 3-pointers. On March 15, he set a BayHawks franchise record with 38 points in a win over the Utah Flash. He followed that up with another 38-point effort that included seven made 3s against his former team, the Dakota Wizards, albeit in a losing effort.

More than anything, Ahearn is a shooter. But he's in a class all by himself when it comes to free throw percentage. Ahearn showed why he is the NCAA's all-time free throw percentage leader. He made all but nine of his 176 free throw attempt (94.9 percent) s this season, including an 11-game stretch when he connected on 54 in a row. The league's second-best free throw shooter, Kevin Kruger, finished at 91.4 percent.

Ahearn and Mike Gansey, affectionately dubbed the Rockers by Ridiculous Upside's Scott Shroeder formed one of the most explosive and entertaining backcourts in the D-League when they were healthy as exemplified by their season-best five-game winning streak in early March.

The future of the BayHawks backcourt is one of the most interesting questions heading into next season. They played well at times with Cedric Jackson at the point. They played well with Blake Ahearn at the point. They did not fair particularly well when the two had to share the backcourt. If Jackson, who earned three call-ups this season, lands on an NBA team to start next season, maybe that issue resolves itself. I know Erie would love to have Ahearn and Gansey together for a full season. But there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before that can happen, namely if Ahearn and Gansey both want to return to the D-League for another season. Consider me squarely in the camp rooting against a Barber Shop moment for this duo of Rockers.

About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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