In advance of the team’s big debut at the swanky new Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse on Nov. 12, the Greensboro Swarm announced its official training roster on Sunday.
As it stands now, the 11-man lineup pools all types of talent: veterans, college ballers from power conferences and mid-majors — some with NBA experience — and three green recruits cherrypicked from the community tryout held here in early October.
All things considered, the Charlotte Hornets’ D-League affiliate stands to make a splash in the league. Let’s take a gander at some of their bona fides.
Center Mike Tobey distinguished himself in his tenure with the University of Virginia Cavaliers as all-time leader in games played with Virginia as well as 2015 ACC Sixth Man of the Year. A 6-foot-11 giant (or an even 7 feet tall if you go by his UVA bio), his career highlight is a 15-point, 20-rebound showing against the University of Louisville on Senior Night in March. Tobey also shows a propensity for blocking shots and hitting offensive boards, and even takes the occasional outside shot with decent accuracy.
The Swarm flaunts another big man from a power conference — the Big 12, appropriately enough. University of Kansas power forward Perry Ellis led his team in scoring during both his junior and senior seasons, averaging 13.8 and 16.6 points per game respectively, vaulting him to the position of eighth-highest scorer in the history of the Jayhawks program. Quite like his new partner in the post, Ellis enjoys recording stuffs and racking up rebounds.
The combination of these two in the paint could make frontcourt drives a potential nightmare for many opposing players.
But a team can’t be all spring chickens fresh out of March Madness.
Swingman Damien Wilkins, a North Carolina native, played college ball at both NC State University and the University of Georgia, graduating in 2004. While he went undrafted following his senior season, the bygone Seattle SuperSonics put some faith into him. Wilkins came in handy after the Sonics suffered from injuries. Then, after legendary shooting guard Ray Allen departed for the Boston Celtics in 2007, Wilkins assumed a full-time starting position, proving himself worthy with a career-best 41-point showing against the Atlanta Hawks.
Since those halcyon days, Wilkins has bounced from team to team, crisscrossing both the country and the world from the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers to the D-League Iowa Energy and the Beijing Ducks. But while Wilkins’ greatest years may be behind him, he’ll likely assume a powerful mentor role for these young dudes looking to improve their skills for a stab at the big leagues.
Some members of the Swarm haven’t enjoyed such a high profile — namely, the lucky three from the community tryout.
Power forward Frank Rogers hails all the way from Salinas, Calif. and played for the University of San Jose. Rogers broke out somewhat in the 2015-’16 season, averaging 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Spartans. He’ll take the long shot too, and for his size posts decent, mid-30s accuracy from range. Even more valuably for the frontcourt, Rogers’ free-throw percentage showed marked improvement over his last two years, jumping from 54.2 percent to 68.4 percent. It’s not the sexiest stat, sure, but sometimes the little things win big games.
Guard Kareem Storey led the offense at point for both the University of Utah Utes and the Morehead State University Eagles. At 6 feet tall (5-foot-10 according to ESPN), Storey may be the shortest of the Swarm’s bunch, but he puts up some interesting numbers: Along with his two blocks from 2015, 39.1-percent shooting, 36.2 percent from beyond the arc and 84.3 percent at the free-throw line, he has an apparent joy for picking opposing players’ pockets. Looking at his trends, he improved in these stats by leaps and bounds in three collegiate seasons. Here’s hoping that momentum drives Storey forward.
Prince Williams, another native of North Carolina, rounds out the Swarm’s guard corps. Born in Raleigh, Williams attended East Carolina University and pillaged for the Pirates for four years; in his last season with ECU, he averaged 10.3 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds, shooting with scary 40 percent accuracy from downtown and 42.6 percent overall. At 6-foot-5, Williams could prove a valuable jack of all trades and pull larger defenders to the backcourt, opening avenues for slashing drives.
Rasheed Sulaimon is the elephant in the Fieldhouse.
The talented Houston native began his collegiate career at Duke University under the tutelage of head coach Mike Krzyzewski; he exploded on the court right off the bat, posting 11.6 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting in his freshman season. Outside Cameron Indoor Stadium, though, demons chased him, including claims of sexual assault from at least two women. Krzyzewski, in an unprecedented move, dismissed Sulaimon from the team, not citing the allegations in his decision.
Sulaimon denied all allegations, and the university never filed charges following inquiry.
Sulaimon finished college play at the University of Maryland, where he continued to produce fabulous numbers: 11.3 points, 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game, all while improving his shooting percentage to a staggering 46.3 percent, including 42.2 from downtown.
Sulaimon signed with the Hornets in September, and I even saw him play against the Celtics in the preseason, but the team decided to further develop his already prodigious skills here in Greensboro.