It looked like the Austin Spurs had blown its lead and would be, at best, headed into overtime with a team they had towered over for three quarters.
About 2,000 people were on their feet at the Cedar Park Center. The score was tied at 146 with 3.2 seconds left on the clock.
This is the stuff all basketball players dream about. The 3, 2, 1 countdown with a chance to win on your home court.
Bryce Cotton, a 6-foot guard, caught the inbounds pass and flung the ball over to Jonathan Simmons, a 6’6” guard from Houston, who was just beyond the 3-point stripe. Simmons caught the ball, sprang high into the air as the Reno Buckhorn’s 6’11” Forward, David Wear, tried to block his shot, missing a deflection by inches. The ball arced nicely, plucked the inside of the rim and spun through the net to win the game. (See video of that game here.)
The Spurs jumped and hugged. The Sunday night crowd went wild!
That’s a tasty, little slice of the National Basketball Association’s Developmental League, and it’s the type of excitement that people in Cedar Park, Leander and the greater Austin area have at their fingertips this time of year.
NBA Talent for a Fraction of the Cost
The D-League is comprised of dozens of excellent players who didn’t quite make the cut on an NBA team, but many of them have some NBA experience. The League says that more than a quarter of the players playing on NBA teams this year have played in the D-League at some point.
And, with reasonably priced seats just yards from the court, the D-League is an opportunity to see the size, speed and dazzling dunks of NBA-caliber players at a fraction of the cost. The games tend to be high-scoring with a lot of fast-break action that captivates young basketball players and their parents alike.
The Austin Spurs, which recently changed their name from the Austin Lobos to better reflect their affiliation with the World Champion San Antonio Spurs, have played in the area since 2005, when the team moved from Columbus, Georgia.
The San Antonio Spurs purchased the team in 2007, making them only the second D-League team to be owned by an NBA team at the time. The team won its first D-League championship in 2012.
The team’s 2015 roster includes three players currently listed as top NBA prospects: JaMychal Green, a 6’9” Forward who played at Alabama; Orlando Johnson, a 6’5” Guard who played at UC Santa Barbara; and Bryce Cotton, a 6-foot Guard from Providence.
Texas Longhorns fans can catch a glimpse of some of its former best players, including Jordan Hamilton, a 6’7” Forward who was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 before ending up on the Reno Bighorns this year.
A Family-Friendly Game
Located just off 183 on the north side of Cedar Park, the Cedar Park Center is a great arena for basketball and hockey. Even the cheapest seats offer a relatively close-up view when compared to professional sport stadiums.
The Center opened in 2009 and it seats up to 8,700 people. In addition to the Spurs, the arena is home to the Texas Stars hockey team and Austin Aces tennis team. It hosts several major concerts each year, as well.
The Austin Spurs, like most amateur teams, give fans a lot of reasons to attend games.
Prior to their game against the Reno Buckhorns, wounded Veteran and Dancing with the Stars dancer J.R. Martinez was introduced to the crowd. Producers drop the lights and play a thumping music video to introduce the hometown starting lineup. And the team’s mascot, “Da Bull” races around the stadium, joking with fans, encouraging them to get loud and goofing around with the stadium’s DJ.
Timeouts and breaks between quarters are filled with on-court games where audience members get prizes for making baskets or winning races against each other.
Meanwhile, the stadium serves standard items, such as hotdogs, hamburgers, soft pretzels, sodas, snacks and a few kinds of beer and wine.
Fans tend to dress casually, and the games seem to be most popular with young boys, who run around pretending to slam dunk on anything that even remotely resembles the rim of a basketball hoop.