Right after T-Wolves Gaming put the finishing touches on its NBA 2K League Championship-clinching victory over 76ers GC last August 3, Justin “Snubby” Stemerman fired off a fairly straightforward tweet on his personal account, simply stating: “the last 2k league game without me in the league was just played.”
the last 2k league game without me in the league was just played
— Snubby (@Snubby21) August 4, 2019
“I’ve had that tweet pinned since that game,” recalled Stemerman. “That was definitely on my mind and I was thinking about it when I got drafted. I always felt like I should have been in since the first season and not making it the second season hurt even more. I knew there was no way I was missing it the third year, especially. Seeing all my friends get in, I knew my time was coming eventually and thank goodness it did.”
Having come up short in the qualifying combine for the draft pool twice already, Stemerman buckled down like never before last fall to finally secure his admission amongst the final 150 spots.
“The second year, I played about 100 games and last year, I played about 160 games at four different positions,” he said. “I went in with the mindset that there was no way I wasn’t making it. I was playing every single hour of every single window. There were windows from like 2 to 8 AM and then the next day from like 12 to 8 PM. My sleep schedule was definitely all over the place, but I was just doing anything I could to make it.”
And make it he did as Hornets Venom GT plucked him with the franchise’s second-ever NBA 2K League Draft pick back in February, utilizing the 18th overall selection on Stemerman. Initially penciled in as the starting shooting guard, the Connecticut native transitioned over to the team’s primary ball-handler when remote play officially kicked off in early May.
— Hornets Venom GT (@HornetsVenomGT) February 23, 2020
“Coming into the season, I was definitely planning on being a shooting guard. I had point-guard abilities at shooting guard, so I thought that would be a huge advantage. Alex (Expose) still brings the ball up a good amount. It’s split about 75-25 in my favor. It was a very seamless transition. I’ve always played point guard with my friends in the retail version of the game.”
Stemerman had to wait all of just two weeks or so for his welcome-to-the-2K-League moment. After dropping Game 1 against Mavs Gaming on May 20, Hornets Venom roared back to win Game 2 and knot up the best-of-three series. Leading by two with 18 seconds remaining in the deciding contest, Stemerman flushed in a one-handed reverse dunk to seal the comeback win.
— Hornets Venom GT (@HornetsVenomGT) May 21, 2020
The soon-to-be 21-year-old is averaging 24.7 points and 4.7 assists over his last 11 outings, which includes three 30-point games and a season-high 37 points in a win over Pacers Gaming on June 24. Confidence has never been an issue for Stemerman and his assimilation into the NBA 2K League has been aided by following those close to him that came before.
“I knew a lot of people that were in Season 1. Being able to see their success and progression, it helped me put myself in their shoes and see what they were going through. When I finally got here, I thought about them and was like, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ I had competed on the court with them for years. I don’t really care about the stats that much, but to see [my play is] coming around is good to see.”
Currently holding a 7-4 record and sitting seventh in the NBA 2K League standings heading into their Week 10 bye week, Hornets Venom has five more regular season matchups on the docket. The top nine teams will be granted automatic playoff berths with the rest of the squads fighting it out for the final spot in THE TICKET Tournament in mid-August.
“As of right now we’re in the playoffs,” said Stemerman. “As long as we do our job and win the games we’re supposed to, we should definitely make the playoffs. That’s what’s on our minds right now. We feel like we’ve gotten the harder part of our schedule out of the way, but there’s definitely some good teams coming up.”
And two of those opponents coming up include Nets GC (7-4) and the defending champions T-Wolves Gaming (6-5), who currently sit eighth and ninth, respectively, in the standings. With remote play still ongoing, it’s been an interesting debut season for Stemerman to say the least, and leading an expansion team to a postseason berth would only make it that much more unforgettable.
by Sam Perley