In his travels as a regional NBA scout, Brad Jones learned that players can be found anywhere, so long as the person looking is willing to keep an open mind. As coach of the Utah Flash, the D-League affiliate of both the Utah Jazz and the Hawks , Jones is taking a similar approach.
The Flash will hold a one-day open tryout Saturday at Clayton State University, hoping to find players whom Jones described as "under-scouted."
The Flash have selected at least two players from open tryouts in Salt Lake City in each of the past two seasons, including Brian Hamilton, who played in the Hawks' mini-camp this summer and is in training camp with New Jersey.
"Brian Hamilton showed up two years ago in an open tryout, got a D-league contract out of it and made our team," Jones said. "It's a great story and kind of what we're hoping happens with this tryout in Atlanta. We're hoping we can find a guy like him. We've had dome success with the open tryout. That's why coming to a Basketball hotbed like Atlanta was a no-brainer."
The Hawks have used their D-League affiliation sparingly in the past. Rookie Othello Hunter and swingman Thomas Gardner played a couple of games with the Hawks' former D-League affiliate in Anaheim last season while the NBA team was on a Western Conference road trip. But that's the only time in the three years with an affiliate that they've used the option to send young players down for extra work.
Depending on who makes the regular-season roster, a rookie or a second-year player like Hunter instead of a veteran, the frequency of that happening could change dramatically this season.
Jones was in town last week watching the Hawks' camp, where he got a good look at eight players trying to land one of the open roster spots. It didn't take another trip to town, however, to convince Jones that his team's next personnel find could be playing on the courts of Atlanta.
"I know there is untapped talent out there," said Jones, who insisted that the only demand they'll make at the camp is that players, "show up, play hard and play smart."
Interested players should arrive at Clayton State by 9:30 a.m. on the day of the workout, Jones said. The players will be put through conditioning and skills competitions before being divided into teams for several game-type scrimmages. Players will have to complete registration forms, as well as a player release and eligibility form, before they can participate.
The early registration fee is $150 and $175 for day-of-camp registrants.
Jones said he's looking for the same thing Basketball coaches at every level look for: someone who plays with maximum energy.
"That's the quick, sure way to get your name on somebody's list," Jones said. "It's amazing. Guys don't realize what a business pro Basketball is. We've had guys that come for the first part of the tryout and they'll look like the next Michael Jordan. And then two hours into it, they can't move because they're not in the shape you need to be to make it through a workout like this.
"What the pros know and understand is the tax on your body that comes from playing at this level. There are so many guys with the body and skill-set to play pro Basketball, but they never understand the work required to play at the pro level. You have to have the body, skill-set and the energy to play at our level. If you don't play with energy, you're not going to get noticed."