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Hornets University

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In 2018 Atlanta Hawks fans named their team “Hawks University” due to their ability to develop draft picks, now it’s time to recognise “Hornets University”

Charlotte Hornets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Charlotte Hornets currently have 10 of their 15 rostered players on rookie scale contracts, that’s the joint highest in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies and more than any of “The Process” Sixers teams. Since Kupchak & Borrego have taken the helm Charlotte there has been a major shift in the roster with long serving veterans Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, MKG & Marvin Williams all leaving Charlotte. This is a a cyclical process in the NBA, you just saw Orlando doing the same thing, albeit actually receiving some assets for their veterans. Normally the shift to focus on young players means the team becomes less competitive for a 2-4 year stretch. However, the Charlotte Hornets in just year two are bucking the trend, sitting firmly in the playoff race for the 4-8 seed and outperforming everyone’s expectations, well apart from good friend and fellow British Hornets fan Rich Kingston!

Charlotte rank 9th in “Average Age” which might be a surprise for a team with the joint most players on rookie scale contracts. However, over the past two years Kupchak has selected a number of seniors Graham (26), Cody & Caleb Martin (25) Nick Richards (23), the team only has two players under the age of 21 in Ball (19) & Carey (20). Having more experienced “Rookies” has definitely been a factor of this team’s ability to be more competitive in the short term, but most importantly is Charlotte’s new development system fast tracking draft picks to become legitimate NBA players. The Hornets have seen impressive levels of growth out of Graham, Rozier, Washington, Bridges, Monk, McDaniels and the Martin twins over the past 2 seasons, and that’s even with a pandemic limiting access to facilities. So what is Charlotte’s secret?

Long gone are the days of Larry Brown’s 3 hour practices and Steve Clifford’s rookie dog house which Vonleh, Monk & Kaminsky all spent time in. James Borrego has established a player development system which I rank top 3 in the league alongside Memphis & San Antonio. So what makes Charlotte different to the other 30 NBA teams who all invest huge sums of money to try and develop their players? I asked Borrego that very question below:

It’s important to point out I asked this question in a pre-game media availability, it is common place for answers to be short and to the point as understandably the coach wants to go and prepare for the game at hand. An almost 3 minute answer just goes to show the amount of passion and pride Borrego has in discussing the player development programme he has established in Charlotte.

Key Points

  • Borrego discussed a holistic approach, looking to develop from the mind, nutritionally, sleep, it’s not just skill development that everyone thinks about.
  • There is an focus on working together effectively, with S&C, dietitians rehab, coaches etc all communicating effectively, he mentions he brought that with him from San Antonio.
  • There is a weekly development meeting with representation from all staff areas for them to exchange notes and information.
  • Progress in physical development has been limited on the road this year due to weight room access due to Covid protocols.
  • Player development is where Borrego has put his “Emphasis” since being in Charlotte and call’s it the “Life Blood” of the organisation.
  • The player development programme is the one thing the coaching staff can control on a daily basis