Even more so than the NBA’s version, the NBA Development League’s All-Star Game brings together players from all walks of basketball life.
There are the grizzled vets like Andre Emmett and Damien Wilkins, who have combined to play on 22 teams across nine countries over the past 12 years. There are the rising rooks — led this year by Bryce Cotton, Tim Frazier and Khem Birch — who were starring in the NCAA just last year. And there is everyone in between, each with the same goal of reaching the next level.
NBADLeague.com brought five questions to Saturday’s practice in New York City to learn more about this year’s group of All-Stars.
What’s Your Favorite All-Star Weekend Memory?
Damien Wilkins, F, Iowa Energy: “My dad and my uncle in the dunk contest when my dad jumped over the chair. I think I was at my grandmother’s house.”
Diante Garrett, G, Iowa Energy: “When I went to the All-Star Game that was in Atlanta. That was my first All-Star Game; I was in middle school. I remember going with my dad and that’s when Michael Jordan hit that shot in his last year.”
Seth Curry, G, Erie BayHawks: “I remember going sometimes with my Pops when he did the Three-Point Contest a while ago, but I think more recently being with my brother last year in his first All-Star Game and seeing the whole atmosphere and him doing what he does.”
Willie Reed, F/C, Grand Rapids Drive: “I’d probably have to say the Dunk Contest with Vince Carter. That’s everybody’s favorite. The 360 windmill was craaaazy.”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, F, Westchester Knicks: “Dwight Howard with the cape — Superman!”
What’s Your Favorite Place to Visit in New York City?
D.J. Seeley, G, Delaware 87ers: “Flight Club — the shoe store.”
Willie Reed, F/C, Grand Rapids Drive: “I’m a food guy. I really like STK, the steak place. I mean, the steak is unbelievable. And I love Benihana.”
Damien Wilkins, G/F, Iowa Energy: “Can you have a favorite here? I like Times Square. I just like the lights. Obviously going to see the statue; it’s always special seeing Lady Liberty. And going to MSG anytime you get the opportunity. You feel the energy just going into the building, even if you’re not playing. It puts you in a different type of mood, like you want to be out there on the stage. It’s like you’re in a play.”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, F, Westchester Knicks: “White Plains!”
Eric Griffin, F, Texas Legends: “It’s too cold. I ain’t trying to go nowhere.”
What’s Your Hidden Talent?
Diante Garrett, G, Iowa Energy: “I would say I can dress pretty nice. I think some people kind of overdress themselves and say it’s ‘swag,’ but I feel like I fit in to the ‘perfect dressers’ category.”
D.J. Seeley, G, Delaware 87ers: “I’m a good bowler. My high score is like 250. It’s close to a perfect game.”
Willie Reed, F/C, Grand Rapids Drive: “I used to play the trumpet. But I think my biggest talent is poetry. I write poetry in my spare time when I’m just relaxing.”
Damien Wilkins: “Table tennis.”
Khem Birch, F/C, Sioux Falls Skyforce: “Video games. I’m playing Call of Duty.”
Seth Curry, G, Erie BayHawks: “I like to hunt and fish.”
Adonis Thomas, F, Grand Rapids Drive: “I just learned how to mix music on my laptop, so I might be doing some producing. Be looking out.”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, F, Westchester Knicks: “Puzzles.”
Which NBA Player Are You Closest With?
D.J. Seeley, G, Delaware 87ers: “I’m close with Dame Lillard. We used to play together in AAU for the Oakland Rebels.”
Andre Emmett, G/F, Fort Wayne Mad Ants: “Donald Sloan. That’s my boy from Dallas. We grew up in the same neck of the woods, and I’m glad to see him doing well.”
Damien Wilkins, G/F, Iowa Energy: “My closest friend would probably be Ray Allen.”
Seth Curry, G, Erie BayHawks: “That’s easy for me… I don’t even need to answer.”
Tim Frazier, G, Maine Red Claws: “I spent some time with the Celtics so I stay in contact with Rajon Rondo. He talks about tricks of the trade and anything he can give me. He took me under his wing when I was down there so it was great and I appreciate that.”
Which Player in the D-League Should in the NBA?
Khem Birch, F/C, Sioux Falls Skyforce: “Willie Reed. He’s tall, runs the floor and block shots. I’m surprised he’s not in there — that’s what the NBA likes.”
Tim Frazier, G, Maine Red Claws: “I think all these guys should be in the NBA. We need to start up our own team in another city so we can all get in there.”
Damien Wilkins, G/F, Iowa Energy: “I look around, and there’s loads of talent in the D-League — not just this weekend. Tim [Frazier] is to me probably the best pure point guard in the league. Andre [Emmett] is one of the best scorers at his position. The big fella, Willie Reed — a guy that can help any team at the next level on the interior. And then you got Seth [Curry] who’s one of the top shooters… anywhere.”
Diante Garrett, G, Iowa Energy: “Playing alongside Damien Wilkins and seeing how long he’s been around and been in the NBA, he’s still got it and has a chance to showcase his abilities. Seeing that as a teammate, I kind of think sometimes, ‘Why hasn’t he gotten that Call-Up?'”
Eric Griffin, F, Texas Legends: “Vander Blue.”
Seth Curry, G, Erie BayHawks: “I want to say Andre Emmett is pretty good. He’s real tough to guard. He’s always getting his numbers and that’s a tough matchup every night.”
Adonis Thomas, F, Grand Rapids Drive: “Andre Emmett and Elliot Williams.”
Andre Emmett, G/F, Fort Wayne Mad Ants: “There’s a group of guys that are very capable of playing in the NBA. Damion (James). This fella right here, Arinze (Onuaku). Andre Emmett … Andre Emmett … and Andre Emmett.”