SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Nancy Lieberman arrived at the last year’s NBA Development League Showcase in snowy Boise, Idaho playing the part of head coach. She just didn’t have any players, her team didn’t have a nickname and she had no idea of what to expect.
A year later at the Showcase — on balmy South Padre Island this time — Lieberman is better equipped on all counts.
“We needed to know the lay of the land, how things work and how important that Showcase was for athletes,” said Lieberman, in her first season as the groundbreaking coach of the expansion Texas Legends.
“I stressed to my players before we left how many NBA personnel people will be there and what this opportunity can and will be like for them. And I could speak from firsthand experience having been there last year and having interacted with so many NBA people.”
More than 100 NBA front office types representing all 30 teams, from general managers to scouts, plus a host of international talent evaluators will descend on the southern tip of the Texas coast for the 2011 D-League Showcase. Billed as the NBA’s premier in-season scouting event, the Showcase tips off a 16-game schedule Monday and runs through Thursday at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.
All 16 teams in the D-League are playing two regular-season games over the four days. Every game will be broadcast live either on television or the Internet. NBA TV has 10 of the games, four are on NBA Futurecast at nba.com/dleague, and AOL Fanhouse and Versus have one each.
The exposure could lead to the break many of these players need. Eight players earned Gatorade Call-Ups during or immediately after last year’s Showcase, including Anthony Tolliver, Sundiata Gaines and Cartier Martin.
“It’s important for the young players to know how fortunate they are to be able to play two games in front of so many people that they could potentially be working for,” Lieberman said. “They’re going to look for that ace in the hole, that sleeper, that guy that they didn’t realize was that good or that consistent. Maybe some team has had a couple of injuries and this guy could help their team.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity, and we want to highlight and feature these guys. I’ve told my guys that we’re going to feature you and let these guys know how good you are. All you have to do is your part and play to the best of your abilities.”
The current Showcase features a number of players with NBA experience, such as Antoine Walker and Luke Jackson (Idaho), Mario West (Maine), and Joe Alexander and Sean Williams (Texas). Some top prospects: Marcus Cousin (Austin), Trey Johnson (Bakersfield), Chris Johnson (Dakota), Ivan Johnson (Erie), Darnell Lazare (Fort Wayne), Othyus Jeffers and Kyle Weaver (Iowa), DeShawn Sims (Maine), Shane Edwards (New Mexico), Patrick Ewing Jr. and D.J. Strawberry (Reno), Jeff Adrien, Jerel McNeal and Mustafa Shakur (Rio Grande), JamesOn Curry and Scottie Reynolds (Springfield), Robert Vaden and Latavious Williams (Tulsa), and Orien Greene (Utah Flash).
“The NBA D-League Showcase affords NBA teams an opportunity to evaluate all of the NBA D-League’s talented prospects in one location, and we’ve seen a number of NBA teams sign players both during and immediately following past Showcases,” said Chris Alpert, vice president of basketball operations and player personnel for the D-League.
The action on South Padre also includes a Three-Point and Slam Dunk Contest, plus clinics for area schools and community organizations. The players are also taking part in several life-skills seminars.
Monday Showcase Schedule (times ET)
Sioux Falls vs. Tulsa, 12:00 pm, NBA TV
Utah vs. Iowa, 2:45 pm, NBA TV
Texas vs. New Mexico, 5:30 pm, NBA Futurecast
Fort Wayne vs. Rio Grande Valley, 8:15 pm, AOL Fanhouse