As NBA teams continue their training camps in preparation for their season's late October tipoff, many of their D-League affiliates are conducting open tryouts in the hope of adding talent to add to their rosters before their season begins on the Friday after Thanksgiving. While such tryouts are often intended to unearth overlooked diamonds in the rough and give young players a chance to compete, D-League teams have famously brought older veterans into the fold, including Ricky Davis, Greg Ostertag and Antoine Walker, whose ill-fated comeback with the Idaho Stampede ended this past April.
At a Sunday tryout for the newly minted Santa Cruz Warriors, the Golden State Warriors affiliate formerly based in North Dakota and named the Dakota Wizards, though, a player took the floor who makes Walker, Ostertag, Davis and every other player in D-League history look like spring chickens. The 68 players who showed up at Aptos High School in Aptos, Calif., to compete for a D-League training camp invite included members of the Washington Generals (as in "the guys who play the Harlem Globetrotters"), Bay Area rapper/noted curser and uncurser of Kevin Durant/Based God Lil B ... and a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz who was born before Batman was. From Julie Jag at the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Seventy-six-year-old Don Wiberg hadn't played basketball in 20 years, having traded it in for beach volleyball, when he stepped on the court Sunday. He admits he couldn't make his high school team and that he played one year at Cal Tech before deciding he was better at water polo.
Still, he couldn't resist the S.C. Warriors' claim that it would welcome anyone over 18 who was willing to pay the $100-125 entry fee.
"It's on my bucket list," he said. "You know, what the hell."
If you can afford the entry fee, a portion of the proceeds from which will reportedly be donated to Aptos High and Santa Cruz City Schools, then "What the hell," indeed! Don't take yourself out of the running before the race even starts — let the front office decide whether it primarily values youth and athleticism or if it prefers the steady hand of veteran leadership. For proof that it's often the latter, just take a look at the New York Knicks' roster. (In fact, I'm surprised Glen Grunwald hasn't already inked Wiberg to a three-year deal.)
Plus, you can never overestimate the value of decades of educational experience when helping your teammates understand how coach wants you to defend the pick and roll, and I know big-club coach Mark Jackson would love having someone to discuss Kalman filtering and adaptive optics for large telescopes with, at long last.
Given Wiberg's age and skill set, it seems unlikely that he will make the Santa Cruz squad; while the Warriors can bring as many as five tryout players to training camp in November, as Wiberg told an interviewer, "I can't say that I can run, jump or shoot, because I can't," and those are basically the primary skills that you need to play professional basketball. Regardless, we congratulate him for accomplishing a lifelong goal and commend him vigorously, because if this was the last thing that he really wanted to do, he must have been living a pretty amazing and fulfilling life these past 76 years.
Our recommendation: If you're in the greater Santa Cruz area and you're looking for "a decent passer [who will] get in there and mix it up" for your rec league team, you should definitely give Professor Wiberg a call. He's got D-League experience (technically), he seems like he'd be a lot of fun to play with and he'll probably even help you with your science homework. Win/win/win.