By Jay Young
SHERMAN - Wednesday night at Sherman Central High School, Wildcats fans were treated to a special guest appearance by the Erie Bayhawks, who made the trip down for a travel practice.
Erie Bayhawks basketball coach Gene Cross, center, addresses the crowd during a “traveling practice’’ at Sherman Central School on Wednesday night. The appearance by the NBA D-League team drew a nice crowd, which was entertained by, among other things, a dunk by Ricky Davis (below). See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J?photos by Jay Young
Coached by Gene Cross, the Bayhawks are an NBA Development League team that is currently a minor league affiliate of the New York Knicks.
"This was a great time. Thank you so much for letting us come down here," Cross told the crowd after the practice session.
The Bayhawks currently play in the East Division of the league along with teams from Canton, Ohio; Portland, Maine, Fort Wayne, Ind., Newark Del., and Springfield, Mass.
The 'D-League' is made up of 17 farm teams spread throughout the country, and is responsible for developing new talent for various NBA franchises.
If a big name gets hurt, there is always someone playing for a D team ready to step up.
The Bayhawks took the SCS gym floor at 7 p.m. for an open practice that included games with local players, various drills, and a rousing dunk contest.
"We like to get out in the community and promote an interest in basketball. It's nice that we can come to a place like Sherman and show fans the kind of talent that is in their own backyard," said Bayhawks' communications director Jason Vaughan. "These traveling practices are a great way to do that and reach out to people."
The local community certainly took advantage of the opportunity to catch a glimpse of some high-flying action, filling the stands and waiting eagerly to get a look at some familiar faces on the Erie roster.
Notable Bayhawks include long-time NBA veteran Ricky Davis, who became a regular on highlight reels during his time with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Lovingly referred to as 'Uncle' Ricky by his younger teammates, Davis gave the crowd a taste of his dunking abilities throughout the evening. It's clear he hasn't lost a step despite spending 15 years playing professional ball.
Midway through the evening Davis led the Bayhawks and several fans through a game of ''knockout'' that incited cheers throughout the gym.
Chris Smith (brother of current Knick JR Smith) was also a crowd favorite. Smith has had stints with the Bayhawks as well as the Knicks since undergoing knee surgery in 2012.
Young guns C.J. Aiken, out of St. Joseph's University, and Jeremy Tyler of San Diego showcased the youthful side of the Bayhawks roster, and added their own flavor to the event.
"It's a great feeling to know what is possible playing at this level," Tyler said after the practice. "It's good to show people where everything starts here in practice. We come out here and work hard every day and not everyone gets to see that."
Cross has been with the Bayhawks for two years after moving his way through the college ranks, where he held assistant coaching positions at Notre Dame and Virginia as well a head coaching position at Toledo. He spent time explaining to the crowd some of the drills and exercises that his team goes through on a day-to-day basis. From pick-and-roll plays to shooting techniques, everything was on display last night.
"It's an exciting coaching position,'' he said. ''We've had some guys get called up to the NBA that we are very proud of. A lot of these guys have all the talent to play there, it's just a matter of getting an opportunity."
A testament to the talent of these teams is the success of players like Houston Rockets' point guard Jeremy Lin.
Before being called up to the Knicks, Lin was playing in the D-League and spent some time with the Bayhawks before moving his way up the ladder.
They Bayhawks next game is at 7 p.m., Friday at Erie Insurance Arena when they entertain the Iowa Energy.