The College Park Skyhawks’ inaugural season carries special meaning. The Hawks organization acquired the Erie BayHawks in 2017, to great acclaim. Now a mere 18-minute drive south of State Farm Arena, the Skyhawks are bringing new life to the South Atlanta community. They’re also adding a new dynamic to the Hawks’ player development system.
One can’t overstate the value of having an arena and a practice facility in the same city as the Hawks. For Brandon Goodwin and Charlie Brown Jr., the Hawks’ two-way players, it means more practices with the big club. It gives Atlanta a lot more flexibility when it comes to manipulating rosters and using the G-League to the fullest extent possible.
College Park held media day in Atlanta, on the practice court at State Farm Arena. As players posed for group shots and made the interview rounds, the vibe in the room was one of hunger, and of hope. Players are anxious to show their skills not only in the G-League, but to the ever-elusive NBA eyes watching.
“I feel like I’m performing for any team that needs a point guard,” said Cat Barber, the former N.C. State product who spent last season with Greensboro and Erie. “If the Hawks call me up, that’s good, but I’m also trying to get on any NBA team.”
For those who were with the Hawks during Summer League and the preseason, the camaraderie is evident. Tahjere McCall got his teammates involved in a social media shout-out to College Park, demanding multiple takes. Even individual shots became a group affair, with teammates lobbing jokes and playful jabs.
The Skyhawks were a team focused on ball movement and pace last season, a trend the team plans to continue this season. “We try to replicate exactly what they do [in Atlanta],” said McCall. “It’s just an organization thing. We all try to be similar and on one page.”
Playing for more than just wins
A slow start to the season is no concern. The Skyhawks lost their opener in Erie 113-97, struggling to find consistent production on offense. The game did, however, lay the foundation for Noel Gillespie’s rotations. Charlie Brown Jr. led the charge with 41 minutes. Brandon Goodwin, Atlanta’s other two-way player, played 34 minutes.
Both Brown and Goodwin were spoken of as leaders at media day. Their experience in Atlanta is viewed as something that can trickle down to College Park. Jordan Sibert (35 min.), Cat Barber (31 min.), and Kenny Gabriel (29 min.) also received significant playing time.
Barber is a prospect of considerable intrigue. A quick-twitch athlete who’s comfortable with a high dose of pick-and-rolls, his game fits comfortably with the Hawks’ image. He has direct competition in Goodwin, who already graces the Atlanta roster, but Barber garnered serious hype out of college. There’s pedigree behind his name.
The Skyhawks want to run teams into the ground. To move the ball, push the tempo, and generate quality looks. Game 1 was a struggle. Brown, who led the team with 21 points, needed 19 shots to get there. It’s early, though, and the philosophy is clear. It’s to align with Atlanta as much as possible.