Hustle hope fans return as season set to start

They have been off the sports radar in DeSoto County for the past little while, but the Memphis Hustle are still around and after dealing with the NBA G League bubble last season, they will be back in the Landers Center, starting in just days. 

The Memphis Grizzlies’ affiliate is in the middle of training camp ahead of the season’s start on Friday, Nov. 5 against Ciudad de México Capitanes, beginning at 7 p.m. The Mexico City-based squad is a new addition to the NBA G League and will play two games to start the year against the Hustle, on Nov. 5 and again on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 7. 

In the shortened season in the Orlando, Florida “bubble” due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hustle finished out of the playoffs with a 6-9 record. Sean McDermott was the team’s leading scorer with 17.8 points a game and Freddie Gillespie was the top rebounder at 10.3 boards a contest. 

Both are back on the training camp roster and are on what is considered, for G League standards, a veteran roster.  Hustle coach Jason March, during the team’s Media Day at FedExForum, said he likes the makeup of the group.  

“We have good veterans,” March said. “It’s not like we have some guys who have just played for a long time. We have an incredible group from top to bottom. I’m really excited for our roster. It’s a great group of guys.”

Memphis Hustle coach Jason March at the team’s Media Day on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at FedExForum in Memphis. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County Sports)

Training camp opened on Monday, Oct. 25 with seven players who the Hustle had returning rights to. McDemott, forward Matthew Hurt, and guard Romeo Weems are affiliate players the Hustle have. There are also two players the team picked in the NBA G League draft and two more selected in local tryouts.  

March said it was great welcoming the rostered players to the floor that first day.  

“On Monday, it was a great feeling walking in the gym,” March said. “Our training camp in the bubble last year, we started with six players, so it was nice to have everyone on the floor.”

The Hustle coach pointed out the purpose of the team remains top of mind to be player development.emphis

“Of course, we do want to get out and win ball games,” March said. “We want to play the right way but we also want to develop guys individually to hopefully contribute at some point.”  

March and the Hustle just hope at the same time fans haven’t suffered too much from NBA G League amnesia and will support the team in Southaven. After all, competition for the sports entertainment dollar in DeSoto County grew over the off-season with the addition of the NISL indoor soccer franchise Memphis Americans.

“We want fans, trust me,” March said. “We’re excited to get back into the Landers Center and start playing again. This is a good basketball team and it has been. We try to put a good product on the floor and play the right way.”

It will remain to be seen if professional basketball back at the Landers Center and player development will translate into fan development at the turnstiles.  

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