OSHKOSH – The Wisconsin Herd begins its second season Friday at the Menominee Nation Arena against the Greensboro Swarm, and Herd president Steve Brandes said in year two, the Milwaukee Bucks’ G League team is not afraid of what a sophomore season will bring.
“We’re on the path to throw the word ‘sophomore slump’ out of our dictionary,” Brandes said at the Wisconsin Herd media day Thursday.
Brandes, who was named executive of the year in the Herd’s inaugural season, said the team outsold its season ticket numbers from 2017-2018.
After finishing fifth in the Central Division with a 21-29 record, the Herd has a starting point for improvement in year two. Herd general manager Dave Dean said before the G League draft that the team was looking to add good shooters and tough athletes.
“Tough athletes that can shoot would be unbelievable,” Dean said.
At the Herd media day, Dean said the team was able to build a roster with athletes who excelled in shooting.
“One of the things that I’ve noticed about these guys is I do think we have a little bit more positional depth than we had last year,” Herd head coach Jordan Brady said. “What I would call roster sustainability as well, so I think Dave and his team have done a really good job of putting these guys together.”
The Herd acquired Michael Qualls, a 24-year-old wing who played with the G League Texas Legends last season. Four local player tryout invitees are also on the training camp roster — Cinmeon Bowers, Anthony Glover, Mareik Isom and Stephen Ugochukwu.
Trevon Duval and Jaylen Morris are the first two-way contract players for the Wisconsin Herd and Milwaukee Bucks this season, and Jordan Barnett, Robert Johnson and Brandon McCoy are Bucks affiliate players.
Three players also have Herd experience, returning in their second year — Alex Marzette, Jarvis Summers and James Young.
“It’s always good to have familiar faces out there,” Brady said. “Those guys are huge, especially for culture.”
Brady said the returning players have a good understanding of his own coaching and the Herd staff, but they, too, are learning a new Herd offense. With a new Milwaukee Bucks coaching staff comes changes in the Herd’s scheme.
“It’s a wide-open offense, opportunities for a lot of play-making from all five positions on the floor. They’re inviting the 3-point shot. They’re encouraging the 3-point shot,” Brady said.
In week two of practice, players seem to be adapting well to the new offensive strategy. Center Brandon McCoy, who played with the Milwaukee Bucks summer league, said after playing the post in college, he is returning to a similar style he played in high school.
Former Michigan State guard Travis Trice said the new system creates a lot more space for shooting.
“It lets guys get into the lane,” Trice said. “If you’re a shooter, especially like James (Young), this is the perfect offense for you to knock down corner threes and threes from everywhere really.”
Young said he made his decision to play with the Herd in year two because of the love the organization showed him.
“Everybody is like your family. That’s why I had to come back,” he said.
Young said the new offense is reflective of the changes in the NBA – it’s a more position-less system. With all G League players hoping for a shot in the NBA, running that style offense will only benefit the players.
“I think it’ll be good for us, especially with the group of guys that we have, a bunch of interchangeable and position-less guys,” guard Robert Johnson said. “Playing that fast pace and style of tempo, I think it’s going to be really good for us.”