Toros tryout attracts wide range of players


Becca Gamache

The Austin Toros of the NBA Development League, held open tryouts Oct. 6 for a chance to make their regular season roster, and 63 players attended for their chance to play professionally in the NBA system.

Michael Marks

At 6-foot-8-inches and 230 pounds, Ed Johnson can work up an appetite.

From professional basketball leagues in Italy to Mexico to Nicaragua, the athletic power forward has made a living by feasting on big men in the paint.

“I look at them like lunch meat,” Johnson said. “And I’m hungry.”

Following his dream to play basketball in America, Johnson was one of 63 players who spent his Saturday at Concordia University trying out for the Austin Toros, the NBA Development League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs.

Each of the D-League’s 16 teams holds open tryouts prior to training camp. Although there are no guarantees that any players who try out will make the roster, to do so wouldn’t be unprecedented. First-year coach Taylor Jenkins is quick to cite University of Georgia product Terrance Woodbury, who attended last year’s open tryout and went on to play in every game last season. 

“Yes, you have a shot,” Jenkins said at the beginning of the tryout. “This is a great opportunity to hopefully find a couple guys who can come to camp and make our team.”

Jenkins stressed that he wasn’t looking to fill a specific position but wanted to find the “best fit” for the Toros. Retired NBA veteran Sean Marks, who is now the Toros’ General Manager, echoed Jenkins’ sentiments.

“We can’t be so picky. If we’re looking for a guard and there’s a talented 4 or 5 man, then you have to leave your options open,” Marks said. “We’re looking at two or three [players] at the end of this who will maybe end up on the team or in camp.”

Greg Mammel, a point guard who played at Division II Barton College, is currently splitting time between coaching eighth-grade basketball in San Antonio and working at a sushi restaurant. He wants to be one of those two or three.

“This is my first tryout for a pro team. Obviously, the goal is to make the team, but for me, it’s also to see if I can measure up against these guys,” Mammel said.

Although Saturday’s tryout was a first for Mammel, other players were veterans of the professional tryout circuit. Travis George signed with the Toros after impressing at last year’s tryout, but was waived from the team after two games.

“The competition here is great. It’s a lot better than last year,” George said.

After being cut from the Toros, George spent last year playing in Thailand for the Bangkok Cobras under Joe Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s father. The 6-foot-9-inch power forward has also played professionally in Belgium, Sweden and Mexico.

“I feel like it’s my time,” the 27-year-old George said.

Results from the tryout have not yet been announced.

Printed on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 as: Hopeful hoopsters hungry for chance