Five things to know about the state's flagship basketball team, and some hot upcoming games
The Delaware Blue Coats will begin play at the new 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington Jan. 23. Here are five things to know about the team and its new home.
1. What is the G-League? Who are the Blue Coats?
While developmental systems in sports like baseball have evolved, the concept in basketball is relatively new.
In 2001, NBA Commissioner David Stern formed the NBA Development League. The league had eight teams, with each associated with an NBA team. This gave teams the opportunity to develop players without taking a spot on the main roster.
Now called the G-League after the title sponsorship was bought by Gatorade ahead of the 2017-2018 season, it has grown to 27 teams, all affiliated with or owned by an NBA franchise. By 2022, three more teams are scheduled to join.
One of the 27 is in Delaware, the G-League affiliate to the Philadelphia 76ers.
In 2013, the 76ers bought the defunct Santa Cruz Warriors, moving them to Newark and calling the team the “87ers” for a season. The name has changed to the Delaware Blue Coats, a nod to the state’s Continental Army regiments.
Teams have 12 players and each NBA team can assign two first or second year players to G-League teams. That means in most games you’re going to see players who’ve seen NBA action as teams can call up players as many times as they choose during the season if they have three years or less experience.
2. Benefits the community
In August, work began on the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington. The Blue Coats have played their home games at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware.
“It’s awesome, a gift frankly,” said Larry Meli, president of the Delaware Blue Coats. “We’ve had this great run in Delaware building the 87ers brand, now the Blue Coats. To have our own home for not only our staff and players, but for our fans as well, I think will be unique and I’m excited for what it means for us moving forward.”
In the ever growing G-League, having the 76ers Fieldhouse to call their home, a skip and a jump from Philadelphia, gives the Blue Coats a leg up on the competition.
“I think we can be a true development center, we were a little bit of nomads,” Meli said. “We had to have practices and training somewhere else before, now it comes in house in one place.”
The 161,000-square-foot complex cost $37 million and features much more than a basketball court. Holding 2,500 people, the complex has full-size NBA regulation courts and turf fields -indoor and outdoor - which can be used in football, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer.
In total, the 76ers Fieldhouse has three full-sized basketball courts, two indoor turf fields, one outdoor field and a world-class performance and athletic training and science centers, including TITUS Sports Academy and Nemours/Alfred I. duPont.
With those features, youth groups will use the fieldhouse, including Delaware Rush Soccer, Delaware Football Club, the 76ers City Youth Basketball League and the Boys & Girls Club.
Training sessions throughout the year will be available for youth sports in basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball.
“We’re a community-based organization, everything we do is about us being in the fabric of Delaware and that’s been our mission since day one,” Meli said. “We’re focused on youth and it’s not about basketball, it’s more about what they want to do outside of that and I think the building will be aspirational and it can give kids an opportunity to be a part of something really unique. Really we hope this place will help develop these kids in all aspects of life.”
More about training sessions can be found at 76ersfieldhouse.com
3. Get tickets to a game
On Wednesday, January 23, the Blue Coats will open the fieldhouse, playing the Memphis Hustle in one of 17 remaining home games.
There are still tickets remaining for the opener and future games, priced from $14 to $125. Group tickets for 20 to 100 people are available, at $10 to $26 per ticket. Concessions offer a variety of food a beverages.
For more ticket information, call 302-504-7587 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The 76ers Fieldhouse is off Route 13 at 401 Garasches Lane in Wilmington.
4. A step away from the pros
In other developmental systems, some players will never sniff the professional level. However, as the NBA has grown, so has the G-League. Now, roughly 50 percent of the G-League roster eventually become NBA players.
The move from Newark to Wilmington also moves the Blue Coats closer to the 76ers, which helps, especially after the implementation of the new two-way contracts.
Two-way contracts allow NBA teams to keep two players on their roster as extra players who are allowed to spend up to 45 days in the NBA while playing out the rest of the time in the G-League.
“One of the reasons we chose Delaware was the proximity to the Sixers,” said Meli. “We’ve been able to shuttle guys back and forth and now the G-League has introduced the two-way contract which means you’ll really see guys playing and contributing to the big club.”
The Blue Coats feature talented players, including Haywood Highsmith and Shake Milton, who have spent time with the 76ers on two-way contracts. Highsmith made the Blue Coats on open tryout and was later called up to the 76ers. He made his NBA debut earlier this month against the Washington Wizards. Milton was a second round pick by the Sixers in last year’s draft and made his debut in November and has since become part of the rotation in Philadelphia.
Several players with international experience also grace the Blue Coats roster. Jared Brownridge played in Italy. Cory Jefferson who was the final pick in the 2014 NBA draft, spent time with the Nets and Suns with several stops overseas as a professional.
Several Blue Coats starred in college and are looking to make the jump. Matt Farrell scored 1,000 points at Notre Dame and DJ Hogg came into Texas A&M as a top 50 prospect.
Along with Milton and Highsmith, who’ve recently gotten their shots, Jonah Bolden and Furkan Korkmaz are players with G-League experience who have become 76ers mainstays.
5. Don’t miss these games
There are 17 home games left on the schedule. Several which come over the weekend, perfect for bringing the whole family out to watch.
The Blue Coats will host the Sioux Falls Skyforce (Fri., Jan. 25), Greensboro Swarm (Sat., Jan. 26), Iowa Wolves (Sat., Feb. 9), Maine Red Claws (Fri., Feb. 22), Grand Rapids Drive (Sat., Mar. 9), Raptors 905 (Sat., Mar. 16) and the Red Claws (Sat., Mar. 23) in their season finale.
Upcoming contests showcase some of the league’s best players. Several games are against teams ahead of the Blue Coats in the league standings, including the Westchester Knicks, Raptors 905 and Windy City Bulls.
Wed. Jan. 30 v. Windy City Bulls 7 p.m.
The Windy City Bulls are another team vying to get back in the playoff hunt, led by Walter Lemon Jr.
After four years at Bradley University, Lemon went undrafted in 2014 before bouncing around a bit, playing in Germany for Crailsheim Merlins, Istanbulspor Beyliduzu of the Turkish league, and multiple G-League stops with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Maine Red Claws.
Lemon made his NBA debut in 2018 with the New Orleans Pelicans, signed with the Boston Celtics on two-way contract and was released and signed by the Bulls. Lemon has found a home with the Windy City Bulls as one of the better two-way players in the league, averaging 21 points and 6 assists a game.
Mon. March 11 v. Westchester Knicks 7 p.m.
The Knicks are fighting for the East lead, led by John Jenkins. He was the 2009 Gatorade Tennessee High School Player of the Year and went on to play college ball at Vanderbilt. There he was the leading scorer in the SEC two years in a row and named an All-American. He went on to be a first round draft pick by the Atlanta Hawks in 2012. The five-year pro has NBA experience with the Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.
Sat. March 16 v. Raptors 905 7 p.m.
Raptors 905 currently holds one of the league’s six playoff spots in the East, led most of the season by the standout duo of Chris Boucher and Jordan Loyd. Both have averaged over 23 points a game for the Raptors and have since made their NBA debut with affiliate Toronto.
Loyd ended his college career at the University of Indianapolis as the schools 25th all-time leading scorer. After going undrafted by the NBA, Loyd made stops with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the G-League and playing for the Hapoel Eilat of the Israeli League. At the beginning of the NBA season he signed a two-way contract with the Raptors and made his NBA debut in October.
Boucher is a G-League leading scorer, averaging 28 points per game. He was a member of the 2018 NBA champion Golden State Warriors. After being released during the offseason, Boucher signed a two-way deal with the Raptors.