Skyforce Player Preview

By Matt Dykstra | November 4, 2017

#1 Ike Nwamu Returning PlayerIke Nwamu
Ike Nwamu made strides as a rookie for the Skyforce a season ago. The 2016 first-round draft pick carved out an immediate role in Head Coach Nevada Smiths offense, stealing a few starts from players in front of him. He possesses extreme athletic ability and bounce, and accounted for some of last season’s most prolific finishes around the rim.
He’s also a dead-eye three-point shooter. Last year, with Briante Weber, Okaro White, and Keith Benson running the show for the majority of the season, Nwamu found value in being able to knock down the open shot. This year, in a potentially advanced role, Nwamu will look to continue his hot shooting and his lock down defense, building on his success from a season ago.
“Ike has really improved,” said Head Coach Nevada Smith. “He’s improved his defense. He’s a knockdown three-point shooter, which he showed a lot of last year. His body is in the best shape it’s ever been in this year. I think he’s ready to have a big year.”

#2 Erik McCree Affiliate PlayerErik McCree

Erik McCree is a versatile talent that can play multiple positions, which is seemingly the theme for this year’s Skyforce roster. Much like a few of his teammates, he’s now bound to the stereotypical “forward” role. He excels with the ball in his hands, and has shown a great ability to get to the rim off the dribble.
McCree plays hard, and makes the game easier for his teammates. He has the potential to be a breakout talent this year for the Skyforce among players not already on NBA contracts. The Louisiana Tech product can score from the perimeter, defend on and off the ball, and make contested shots at the rim. He’s in for a big season.
“Erik is a versatile guy that can play big as well as about every guard position,” said Coach Smith. “He’s great at getting to the basket, and he draws a ton of fouls. He knows how to get to the rim. Defensively, he’s very active. He’s a very high-energy player.”

#3 Larry Drew II Returning Player

Larry Drew II

Larry Drew II returns for part of his fifth season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He’s an NBA G League Champion, helping Sioux Falls win the title in 2016. He brings a championship and winning mindset to the young roster, and knows the HEAT system well and is comfortable playing here in South Dakota.
This summer, Drew II helped USA Basketball win Gold at the 2017 AmeriCup games in Uruguay and Argentina alongside other fellow NBA G League alums. He spent training camp with the Miami HEAT before returning to the Skyforce this season. He’s a player who stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis, and is comfortable finishing the game with zero points and 13 assists if the situation calls for it. He’s a true point guard, through-and-through, who will look to lead this team once again throughout the season.
“[Larry Drew II] loves Sioux Falls,” said USA Basketball Assistant Coach and former Skyforce Head Coach Mo McHone. “His feelings for Sioux Falls are just as deep as mine…his connection to Sioux Falls was really well portrayed [during the AmeriCup Tournament]. He did a great job of representing not only the NBA G League, but Sioux Falls as wel. Sometimes you just don’t know what the motive is with some players, but I’m telling you, he has no agenda. He’s truly genuine.”

#5 Torrey Craig Denver Nuggets Two-Way Player 

Torrey Craig

Torrey Craig was transferred to the Skyforce via the “flexible transfer rule”, which is a fancy and short way of saying, “Denver is able to send Craig to the Skyforce because they don’t have an NBA G League affiliate of their own.” Regardless, he’s here and will be a major, immediate contributor for the Skyforce this season.
The 6-5 guard has the length and athleticism to play both guard positions as well as either of the forward spots. Coach Smith will likely deploy him in a number of ways in order to utilize his full skillset. He’s shown go-to scoring ability, and displays a great rebounding and playmaking skillset. He will find success in Sioux Falls, but ultimately belongs to the Denver Nuggets.
“Torrey is our best defender,” said Coach Smith. “He’s long and athletic. He can do multiple things, guard multiple positions, and play multiple positions. He’s a good shooter, and he plays with a high energy level. He’s an NBA player.”

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#6 Matt Williams Jr. Miami HEAT Two-Way PlayerMatt Williams Jr

Matt Williams Jr. can shoot from anywhere on the court. There is no such thing as a three-pointer that’s too deep. He was always a great shooter, but developed into a premiere three-point shooter in his final year at UCF in college. He’s continued his hot shooting in the NBA, lighting it up for Miami’s NBA Summer League team before being signed as a two-way player for the 2017-18 season.
Williams Jr. will provide instant offense, and will fit in nicely with Coach Smith’s fast paced style of play. He’s a great defender, and has shown the willingness to put in whatever work necessary to reach the next level of his game. On a team with a number of scoring threats, Williams Jr. has the potential to lead the charge in that category.

#10 Derrick Walton Jr. Miami HEAT Two-Way Player

Derrick Walton Jr.

Derrick Walton Jr. is a perfect combination of playmaking and microwave scoring. Put simply, he gets buckets. However, he’s shown a great ability to get his teammates involved, and isn’t limited to the “score first” mantra that some guards are defined as. Throughout his collegiate career, he’s found ways to get his teammates. He’s continued that same approach through NBA Summer League with the Orlando Magic, preseason game with the Miami HEAT, and now through training camp with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Walton Jr. will look to provide an immediate impact, and has an eye toward getting better and proving that he’s an NBA talent, able to provide instant offense and run the show from the point guard position.
“[Derrick Walton Jr.] is an NBA point guard,” said Head Coach Nevada Smith. “He’s a scoring point guard because he can score in a number of ways, but he’s also a great passer and he gets everyone involved. He’s a great shooter from behind the arc. Defensively, he really gets after it and plays hard. He’s really good on the ball, and really good off the ball.”

#13 Jalen Bradley Tryout Player

Jalen Bradley, a rookie out of Oral Roberts University, is no stranger to South Dakota. As a senior last season in the Summit League, Bradley averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Bradley brings a competitive nature to the roster, and is a good athlete for his size.
Bradley has shown ability to both run the offense, and play off the ball. He will add even more depth to the already stacked backcourt consisting of Larry Drew II, Derrick Walton Jr., Matt Williams Jr., Ike Nwamu and Geron Johnson.

#15 Tony Mitchell Affiliate Player

Tony Mitchell

Tony Mitchell is a polarizing scorer, and an incredible athlete. He also knows what it’s like to play in the Sanford Pentagon. In fact, on April 5, 2013, Mitchell dropped 49 points on the Skyforce at the Pentagon to lead the Fort Wayne Mad Ants to a 125-112 road victory. In five regular season games against Sioux Falls, Mitchell averaged 28.8 points and 5.2 rebounds. Needless to say, it’ll be nice to have him on our side of the ball.
Now 28 years old, and the oldest player on the Skyforce’ young roster, Mitchell will look to summon his former NBA G League Rookie of the Year game to remain a dynamic threat on offense this season.
“Tony is a scorer,” said Head Coach Nevada Smith. “He can score in many different ways. He can shoot, he can drive to the basket, and he can score in the post. He’s a good defender and a great athlete. He’s a very underrated athlete. He plays way above the rim. He’s a guy that can do multiple things at multiple positions.”

#16 Ishmael Hollis Tryout PlayerIshmael Hollis

Ishmael Hollis was one of the first players to arrive in Sioux Falls for training camp in October, and has worked his way onto the roster to start the 2017-18 season. The 6-8 product out of the University of North Georgia averaged 19.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in his final collegiate season in 2014.
Hollis marks the only NCAA Division II player on the roster, and plays with a chip on his shoulder because of it. Hollis has good athleticism and length, shows qualities of being a great teammate, and knocks down open shots when the ball rotates his way.

#19 Geron Johnson Tryout PlayerGeron Johnson

Geron Johnson was marks the third tryout player to make the Skyforce roster this season. The 6-3 guard is a tough defender, and a fierce competitor. He began his relationship with Head Coach Nevada Smith during their time in Rio Grande Valley, having been allocated to the Vipers from the Houston Rockets as an affiliate player in 2014.
After spending the last few two seasons playing overseas, Johnson is hoping to reignite his NBA G League career under his former head coach. Throughout training camp and the early days of the season, Johnson has shown willingness to put in extra work, and has driven his teammates every day. He’s a complementary piece of the Skyforce puzzle both on and off the court.

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#20 Kadeem Jack Returning PlayerKadeem Jack

Kadeem Jack was acquired in a late trade last season from the Reno Bighorns, and only had the chance to show flashes of what he could do on both ends of the court before the season ended. He appeared in just two games in a Skyforce uniform, but managed to put up 12 points, two rebounds and two blocks in just 14 minutes against the Bighorns, his former club, on March 15, 2017.
Jack provides size, athleticism and versatility at the forward position. He’s proven to be an excellent rebounder, when given enough minutes to make an impact. He played 20-or-more minutes just four times last season, but averaged 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in those games. Jack is a player who has the chance to make the leap this season.

#22 A.J. Hammons Miami HEAT AssigneeAJ Hammons

Hammons will look to hold down the paint during his time in Sioux Falls. The Skyforce roster is built around athleticism and versatility, and though Hammons won’t blow you away with athletic ability, he can score in a number of ways. Hammons, who spent last season splitting time between the Texas Legends and the Dallas Mavericks, will look to use his time in Sioux Falls to continue to develop his overall game.
“A.J. is big. He’s strong, and he knows how to play,” said Head Coach Nevada Smith. “He’s good on the offensive glass and he’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s a good defender for his size, and he knows how to use his body.”
Hammons is much more than just a back-to-the-basket scorer, making him a perfect fit in Coach Smith’s fast-paced, free-flowing offensive style. Hammons will look to make an impact in a number of ways this season.

#34 Jimmie Taylor Draft PlayerJimmie Taylor

Jimmy Taylor brings size, length, and athleticism to a somewhat small Skyforce lineup. The team features many players who can play multiple positions, which will create mismatches when playing “small ball” throughout the season. However, there’s always a time and place for a traditional center, and that’s what Taylor is.
He moves well for his size. He’s got decent footwork, and he catches the ball well near the rim. He’s not going to blow up the box score on the offensive end of the court, but he’s the perfect complement to offensive-minded Miami HEAT assignee A.J. Hammons. Taylor gives the Skyforce something they didn’t have a lot of before this year’s draft: rebounding and shot-blocking.

#35 Kris Jenkins Draft PlayerKris Jenkins

Kris Jenkins is famous for making “the shot”. No… Not Michael Jordan’s 1989 shot that sunk the Utah Jazz. Not Christian Laettner’s 1992 shot that lifted Duke over Kentucky to go to the Final Four. Jenkins made the most recent shot, which lifted Villanova over the University of North Carolina as time expired in the 2016 NCAA Championship.
Jenkins brings championship experience, a winning mentality, and a hot shooting hand from behind the three-point line to a Skyforce team that plays at a quick pace, and places an emphasis on making the open three.