By Sam Perley
For the second time in as many years, Hornets Venom GT heads into the start of the NBA 2K League campaign with just one returning starter, but is eager to see what the infusion of new talent can do starting with tonight’s opener in THE TIPOFF Powered by AT&T.
As it currently stands, the roster is headlined by forward Kingsley “Crown” Braggs, a member of both the All-NBA 2K League Second Team and All-Rookie Team in 2021. Alongside him will be three rookies in forward Nicholas “Nick” Clark, center Damon “DJ” Jones and guard Jahaad “KingHaad” Thomas. Season 3 draftee Glenn “GlennRatty” Wilkerson, who is temporarily replacing reigning All-Rookie and All-Star guard Craig “rigby” Burnett Jr., will round out the backcourt.
Despite the reshuffled roster and relative inexperience, expectations remain high for the squad, which has qualified for the playoffs each of its first two NBA 2K League seasons. “I think we have the ability to shock a lot of guys,” says Crown. “We have a lot of young players – three rookies and a conditional pick in Glenn – but I think our ceiling is still pretty high. I think our defense is great. I think our offense is coming along. We have the ability to be a playoff team and maybe win one of these tournaments, too.”
Guard Justin “Sherm” Sherman, center Peter “PeteBeBallin” Malin and forward Gio “Trap” Elizondo all retired from the NBA 2K League after Season 4, a campaign that additionally featured Hornets Venom GT capturing THE TURN Championship in July. Heading into last year, Hornets Venom GT also had just one player – Trap – back from the inaugural 2020 squad, so roster turnover certainly hasn’t been an unfamiliar obstacle to encounter.
Season 5 officially gets underway tonight with THE TIPOFF, a tournament that Hornets Venom GT has never advanced out of group play from. Currently slotted into Group D in the Eastern Conference, the team will face Knicks Gaming tonight at 10 PM ET, followed by matchups with Nets GC (Thursday at 8 PM), Raptors Uprising GC (Friday at 10 PM), Magic Gaming (Tuesday, April 12 at 10 PM) and Grizz Gaming (Wednesday, April 13 at 10 PM).
— Hornets Venom GT (@HornetsVenomGT) April 4, 2022
The NBA 2K League has instituted a new format for Season 5, with competition shifting primarily to both 5v5 and 3v3 tournaments. For THE TIPOFF, the top four teams in each group following the round robin portion will then travel to Indianapolis to play out the remainder of the bracket in person from April 20-23. The winning team will eventually walk away with $100,000, second place gets $50,000, third and fourth each receive $25,000 and then $12,500 for fifth through eighth.
Says Hornets Venom GT Head Coach and General Manager Lawrence “BiggWest” West, “I love the new season structure. If you know anything about our league, teams can just get hot at the right time – like us last year for THE TURN. I also love the addition of 3v3. 5v5 is a little more strategical and more traditional basketball sets. 3v3 is a little more fun. You have to find ways to limit the guards from shooting threes. Have to get ready to run a lot of people off the 3-point line. If you can get them to take twos, you’re going to win that thing.”
All group play for Hornets Venom GT will take place remotely at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC. To catch all the action, tune into the NBA 2K League’s Twitch or YouTube channels starting tonight at 7 PM ET.