For the first time in nearly two trips around the sun, the Chase Fieldhouse will be welcoming back fans into its luxurious complex for a Delaware Blue Coats game. Not only will the arena be ushering in eager fans, but it will also be the home location to a brand-new era of Blue Coats basketball.
The Delaware Blue Coats are coming off one of their most successful seasons since the organization became the NBA G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers’ in 2013. Even though last year’s 2020-2021 season was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Coats were still able to impress a lot of people in the G League bubble.
The team finished with a 10-5 regular season record, which was followed up by a playoff run that took them all the way to the NBA G League Finals. The Blue Coats fell in that game 97-78 to the Lakeland Magic.
While the Blue Coats may not have captured the ultimate championship last year, the season was still a major success that the organization will be looking to build on this upcoming season. However, many of the familiar faces from last season have moved on from the team, while a fresh set of new talent will be welcomed in with the start of the 2021-2022 season this Saturday, Nov. 6.
One of the most notable names that will not be returning to the Blue Coats this year is Paul Reed. “B-Ball Paul,” as fans have grown to call him, is now a full-time member of the 76ers’ roster.
Reed played for the Blue Coats on a two-way contract last season after being drafted by the 76ers in the second round of 2020 NBA Draft. During his time with the Blue Coats, he emerged as the star of the team, becoming the organization’s first ever NBA G League Most Valuable Player. He was the anchor of one of the most successful teams in Blue Coats history and his success has earned him the opportunity to compete for minutes at the NBA level.
Reed is an example of what the NBA G League is all about: opportunity. He took an opportunity to prove his talent with the Blue Coats and he ran the extra mile with it. With the “Paul Reed era” now over in Delaware, there will be plenty of opportunity for a new generation of Blue Coats to fill the large shoes that he and the rest of last year’s team left behind.
Of the 14 players announced to be on the Blue Coats roster ahead of the 2021-2022 season, only two of those players are returning members of the 2020-2021 squad: Braxton Key and Jared Brownridge.
Last year, Key was a reserve off of the bench who contributed 4.3 points per game (PPG) on 12.2 minutes per game (MPG). With the absence of both Paul Reed and former Blue Coats center Ivan Rabb, the 6’8” Key will have a major opportunity to step up as the team’s go-to big.
Much like Key last year, Jared Brownridge was also a reserve for the Blue Coats who had to battle for minutes. He showed flashes of his powerful scoring arsenal last year, but he also found himself competing with other guards on the team such as Isaiah Joe, Rayjon Tucker and Justin Robinson.
With each of those three players now on full-time NBA contracts, Brownridge will enter his fifth straight season in Delaware with a huge opportunity to take over as “the guy” in the backcourt.
While Key and Brownridge certainly have the seniority on the team, there are 12 new faces on the roster who will be hunting for playing time.
One name that is particularly exciting to a lot of fans is Jaden Springer out of Tennessee University. Springer was drafted by the 76ers in first round of the 2021 NBA Draft.
In college, he built himself a reputation for being a solid wing defender with a consistent jump shot. He also caught some attention playing alongside some of his younger teammates in the NBA Summer League with the 76ers this past summer, averaging 11.2 PPG. Springer will be a player that both 76ers fans and Blue Coats fans will be keeping an eye on to see how he polishes his game.
Another name that Blue Coats fans may already be familiar with Haywood Highsmith, who will be returning to the Blue Coats after being with the team from 2018-2020. Last season though, Haywood played overseas in Germany for the Crailsheim Merlins, whom he started 23 games for while averaging 8 PPG. It will be interesting to see what Highsmith can contribute in his return to Delaware this season.
While many teams send their rookies from the NBA Draft to the G League for development, the G League has their own annual draft. This past October, Blue Coats traded up for the first overall pick in the draft and selected Shamorie Ponds, who had previously spent time in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors.
Ponds is no stranger to the G League, as he played for the Raptors 905 during the 2019-2020 season on a two-way contract. In 18 appearances for the 905, he averaged 14.4 PPG, 3.3 assists, and 2.2 steals. The Blue Coats will also be adding Ponds’ fellow draft class member, Barra Njie, to their roster. Njie previously played in Sweden and was selected by Delaware with their lone second round pick.
Springer, Highsmith, and Ponds may all be fresh names that have high expectations this upcoming season, but there will be plenty of opportunities for other Blue Coats to make their mark on the court. Grant Riller, Tra-deon Hollins, Demarcus Holland, Aaron Henry, Shaquille Harrison, Jarron Cumberland, Brian Cameron and Charlie Brown Jr. round out the 14-man Blue Coats roster to start the season.
There has been a lot of shapeshifting in terms of the Blue Coats roster, and the front office and coaching staff have also seen significant changes to the main positions that steer the ship. Former head coach of the Blue Coats, Connor Johnson, recently accepted a position with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder as the assistant coach for player development.
Delaware’s new head coach, Coby Karl, is no stranger to the landscape of the NBA G League. He was the head coach with the South Bay Lakers from 2016-2021, but also played in the league as a player in spurts between 2007 and 2015. The 38-year-old headlines a brand-new staff in Delaware, which also includes assistant coaches Isaiah Fox, J.P. Clark, God Shammgod Jr. and newly hired General Manager Prosper Kawanga.
To put the cherry on top, Delaware already debuted a brand-new logo and mascot ahead of the upcoming season. Coaty, the new mascot of the Blue Coats, will be making his official game debut this weekend to kickstart what the fans hope to be a long career as the face of the team.
Considering all the new faces and changes that have come to Delaware, it is hard to see why fans and team executives would not be excited for this upcoming season. The team will officially begin the 2021-2022 season this Saturday, Nov. 6, as they host the Long Island Nets scheduled for 7:00 p.m. tipoff time.
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