For most people, a Sunday in the middle of September is spent recovering from the chaos of the previous days college football results and preparing for a day full of NFL football. For 79 local athletes, however, this past Sunday was about pursuing their dreams. The Hustle held their annual open tryouts on Sunday, giving the 79 players who registered a chance to showcase their skills in front of Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Hustle basketball executives. There is a wide variety of players who made their way to Christian Brothers University this past weekend. Among the participants were former college players, guys who have played overseas and even your local high school superstar who can’t let his basketball dreams die.
Ultimately though, that is what this past Sunday is all about. In speaking with Hustle head coach Jason March, he noted that the goal for the players this past weekend is to ultimately get a training camp invite to participate in next month’s training camp. From training camp, the goal would be to make the Hustle final roster ahead of their November 4th season opener against the Lakeland Magic. Should a tryout player make the Hustle roster, the next step would be the increasingly difficult jump to the NBA from the G League level. NBA aspirations could be considered a long shot but that didn’t stop these players this past weekend. With the way the Hustle are geographically located, some of the participants have traveled hours just for the chance to get a training camp invite with the Memphis Hustle. Of the 79 participants, one name stood out: TCU’s Jaylen Fisher. Fisher is a Memphian who played his high school ball at Bolton High School. Fisher dealt with lingering issues in his right knee following meniscus surgery and ultimately left the TCU program after being shut down early in his 3rd season. Fisher appeared in just one game last season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Yet on a Sunday in mid-September the former 4-star recruit spent his morning battling with a bunch of other players just for a chance to earn a G League training camp invite. Some other notable names: Kahron Ross from Lehigh, Hasahn French from St. Louis University and Devonaire Doutrive from Boise State.
From a coaching standpoint, Jason March says they have different things that they value throughout the organization, but view the local tryouts as an opportunity for guys to come out and be seen. March acknowledged that in the registration process certain guys catch the teams eye based on their experience overseas or at the collegiate level but they keep an open mind and want to give everyone an open opportunity. He goes on to discuss how they use 3-on-3 and other types of drills to either weed some guys out while also allowing others to catch their eye.
March also loved what he saw from his coaching staff as part of the local tryouts. They were “all in” with the tryouts, and he was pleased with the way they handled organizing and coaching to really give these players the best possible opportunity to shine in the open tryouts.
March did note that their roster is pretty much in tact heading into next season, but that the tryouts give them a look at guys who can join the team in training camp. Just last season, the Hustle had 3 local tryout guys make the training camp roster and although none were on the finalized Hustle roster, Devin Whitfield appeared in 3 games with the Hustle last season as they dealt with roster turnover due to injuries and the NBA hardship contracts. Over the years, the Hustle have had success with finding good minutes during the season from guys who made the team from local tryouts. Dusty Hannahs was initially a local tryout player in the Hustle’s inaugural season and ultimately had a very successful G League career before transitioning overseas. While the Hustle have been more established in recent years, local tryout players have gotten minutes in every season since the Hustle’s inception in the 2017-2018 season.
The dream doesn’t die once the Hustle decide who they want to come in on a training camp invite, nor does it die if a local tryout player is cut following training camp. The beauty in the open tryouts is that it gives players an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of Memphis scouts and executives. A strong showing this weekend could be what gives someone an opportunity to play for the Hustle following a call-up or trade later in the season.
While most spent this past weekend watching a ton of football, it was a big weekend for the Memphis Hustle and the 79 registrants for the open tryouts. The Hustle actively looking to fill out the rest of their roster in their pursuit of developing talent for the Grizzlies, as well as aiming towards a G League Championship. For the 79 registrants, the morning was spent pursuing their basketball dreams no matter how slim the dreams really are. Because ultimately the tryouts are what basketball is about. The odds of anybody at CBU yesterday morning making their way to an NBA roster aren’t high, but it’s the hope that keeps the dreams alive for the 79 players this past weekend.
Most of you reading this post have your own dreams and ambitions and likely know that as long as you have hope, you’ll believe you can achieve those dreams. Sunday was a big day for these local athletes in the pursuits of their dreams. Some dreams will be crushed by the time you read this, while others will be one step closer in seeing their dreams come true. Regardless of the end result from Sunday, the opportunity to pursue their dreams this past weekend will be enough to keep the hope alive.