The rebirth of the professional sports scene in downtown Tulsa continues this weekend as the Tulsa 66ers NBA D-League team will make their debut in the newly renovated Tulsa Convention Center. The 66ers are coached by Nate Tibbetts and are owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 66ers are now in their third venue since their inception in 2005. They originally played in the Pavilion at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds, then they moved to the Spirit Bank Events Center last season. After a season there the decision was made to relocate the team to downtown Tulsa, in the Convention Center Arena, a building that last saw professional basketball in the early 1990s when the Tulsa Zone of the Continental Basketball Association played there.
The 66ers are billed as “the future of the Oklahoma City Thunder” and though players called up to play in the NBA from the 66ers will most likely go to the Thunder, they can be called up by any of the 32 NBA teams. The rosters are made up in a number of ways: the previous years’ players, players taken in the D-League draft, allocation players (meaning players who are assigned to a team with which they have a local connection, such as ORU product Moses Ehambe who played for the 66ers last season), NBA team assignments, and local tryouts.
NBA teams can call up players as many times as they choose, but a player can only be assigned to the NBA D-League three times in a season. Finally, each NBA team can assign two first or second year players to its affiliated D-League team. If more than two NBA players are assigned to a team, the team must reduce the number of D-League players to keep the total roster size to 12. Each team also has local tryouts, and one player from the tryouts is assigned to the team. The minimum age to play in the NBDL is 18, unlike the NBA which requires players to be 19 years old and one year out of highschool in order to sign an NBA contract or be eligible for the draft. The 66ers recently made NBA D-League history when they selected the first ever draft pick out of a high school, 6-8 forward Latavious Williams out of Christain Life Academy in Texas.
Returning player include Ehambe, who played for the 66ers last season and had an outstanding career at Oral Roberts University. On assignment from the Thunder is Stephen Hill, a 7 foot tall center out of Arkansas, and much of the rest of the 66ers camp roster consists of locally schooled players. Since the Thunder are doing much better than they did a year ago at the NBA level, it is expected that there will be a lot of movement between Tulsa and Oklahoma City over the course of the NBA D-League season.
The 66ers tip off this weekend against the Utah Flash on November 27-28. Go to tulsa66ers.com or call 918-585-8444 for more information on tickets.