The Delaware Blue Coats held the first of three open tryouts on Saturday September 7th in Wilmington Delaware. More than 100 hopefuls attended to take a chance at a professional basketball career in a session led by Blue Coats’ head coach Connor Johnson. Many arrived just after dawn from all around the Philadelphia region. Some came from as far as Virginia for a chance to be taught and evaluated by 76ers’ staff.
“Kick ahead culture” Coach Connor Johnson spoke prior to tryouts about the three pillars of the team Philosophy— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) September 7, 2019
full experience today. Got yelled at by a coach, got a sweat, and took a charge on game point.
I leave undefeated @BlueRouteTPL pic.twitter.com/Ky5XL6egjN
The tryout began early on Saturday morning with registration beginning at 7:30 AM. The 76ers’ Fieldhouse, which opened in January 2019, hosted open tryouts for the first time. Hopefuls were greeted by the three full sized courts in the facility that is home for the Blue Coats, who are looking to build off an up and down season under the first year head coach Connor Johnson and general manager Matt Lilly.
“You really look for someone who leaps out against this competition,” said Coach Johnson on Saturday. The coach oversaw a structured event on a large scale. Several other members of the 76ers and Blue Coats organization also evaluated each and every potential Blue Coats’ player.
“Can you guard your man?” is a common phrase used by 76ers head coach Brett Brown when talking about what a player needs to do to earn playing time in Philadelphia. When Connor Johnson talks, it’s very much a similar refrain. Tasked with implementing similar concepts for the G-League team, Johnson looks for big men who can protect the rim and wings who can guard in space.
In a venue like this, the pressure is intense for players to show what they can do offensively. It can be a difficult challenge to stand out defensively, but shot blocking, getting back on defense, fighting through screens and taking charges were all things that Johnson cited in our preview podcast on The Blue Route last month. A certain beat reporter may or may not have taken a charge for the team to lead to the game winning basket…
The second pillar that Johnson talked about was getting out and running. The 76ers have made no secret of their desire to play with pace. Connor Johnson was consistently seen imploring his team to run the floor last season, and it is embedded in the DNA of the type of player the program is looking for.
Conditioning and the ability to run the floor and get back on defense were consistently preached. Those players who were able to get out and run stayed on the floor longer and got a longer look from coaches and scouts.
“Kick Ahead Culture.” The premise of this was that a pass is faster than dribbling up the floor. This was consistently reinforced from the early drills through the games. Sharing the ball was something that was heard from virtually every coach at the event. This is nothing revelatory, but it is worth noting that when no cameras are around, the coaches are teaching off ball screens, screen setting, and passing out of the pick-and-roll as foundational concepts.
Even before the formal stretching, there were simple pick-and-roll drills being run. One thing you notice from being inside of the drills is how easy it is to take for granted the nuance and execution.
Next up: Do you have what it takes?
TPL’s own Editor, Bryant Baker, will be the next to take his shot as the pros. Baker is a deadeye shooter with nearly limitless range.
Saturday, Sept. 14
Wilson High School
2601 Grandview Blvd., Reading, PA, 19609
8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Check-in begins at 7:00 a.m.)
Saturday, Sept. 21
Temple University, McGonigle Hall
1800 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA, 19121
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Check-in begins at 7:15 a.m.)
All participants will be evaluated by Philadelphia 76ers and Delaware Blue Coats basketball operations staff, including Blue Coats General Manager Matt Lilly and Head Coach Connor Johnson. Registrants will receive an official Blue Coats tryout jersey, two tickets to a future Blue Coats game, and an invitation to an exclusive NBA G League event during the 2019-20 season.
Since 2013, a total of 23 players from the team’s open tryouts have been invited to NBA G League Training Camp and 15 players have made the regular season roster.
Registration is open to the public, $175 dollar fee offsets the costs of the events and jerseys plus ensures that each player gets a legitimate opportunity to be seen. Follow the link below to register.