The roster is set and this season’s edition of the Memphis Hustle will take to the Landers Center floor for the first time Friday night, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. against the Texas Legends (Dallas). The Hustle will return the favor the next night, traveling to Frisco, Texas to play the Legends on Saturday, Nov. 9.
The Hustle announced its opening night roster Monday morning with the waiver of three players. Center Asuhn Dixon-Tatum, forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, and guard Jimond Ivey were waived in the final pre-season cuts on the roster.
“It was a tough decision,” said first-year Hustle coach Jason March. “It always comes down to some hard conversations. But I’m very happy with the group we have. Everyone was involved. We all sat down as a group and came out with the best that we felt going forward.”
What remains is a squad that has three returning players from last season’s team that made the NBA G League playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s brief history, and a returning player with Marquis Teague, who briefly played for the Hustle in the team’s first year of existence two years ago.
The three returning players from last year are guard Dusty Hannahs, along with forwards Nino Johnson and Yuta Watanabe, who joins guard-forward John Konchar as the team’s pair of two-way players with contracts between the Hustle and the parent Memphis Grizzlies.
Jarrod Uthoff is a forward with the team for the first time who the Hustle have as a returning rights player and has G League experience in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Uthoff played collegiately at Iowa of the Big Ten and played nine games with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2016-17 NBA season.
Two players made it through from local tryouts at Christian Brothers University and DeSoto Central High School to make the opening night roster. They are forward Venky Jois (Eastern Washington) and Raynere Thornton (Memphis).
However, many basketball fans are excited to watch in action Josh Jackson, an assignment player from the Grizzlies to the Hustle. Jackson played in college one season for Kansas, then declared for the NBA draft and was picked by the Phoenix Suns.
Jackson, who was traded in the offseason from Phoenix to Memphis, said he was excited to get back to playing basketball.
“Our most valuable weapon is our versatility, being interchangeable is multiple different situations,” Jackson said. “I think we’ve got a really, really good group of guys, a talented group, multiple guys, including myself with NBA experience. I’m excited to get the year started.”
Jackson played two seasons with the Suns and averaged 12.3 points per game.
Many basketball players describe the season as a “grind,” but March said the Hustle’s style of play will reflect the nickname.
“It doesn’t matter how practices are going, when we get really ramped up in competition and scrimmages, these guys get after one another,” March said. “You’re going to see us play at a pretty high pace and we will have quite a bit of excitement. We have talented players that are athletic and can shoot the ball.”
For Friday night’s home opener, the first 3,000 fans in attendance will receive Hustle Fanny Packs as it first promotion of the year.
For the team’s second home game on Veteran’s Day, Monday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., the Hustle will honor the armed services with Veteran’s Night. All veterans and active duty military will receive complimentary admission by showing their ID at the Landers Center Box Office.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.