UFC 249: Size of Next Opponent’s Name Most Important for Aleksei Oleinik

Longtime heavyweight Aleksei Oleinik earned arguably the biggest win of his career at UFC 249.

The 42-year-old known as “The Boa Constrictor” is a veteran of over 70 professional fights, but defeating former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum certainly has to be up there.

Oleinik (59-13-1) told media outlets including Cageside Press during a virtual post-fight press scrum following the event that “it’s one of the biggest names [of his career]. Maybe not the biggest, but one of the biggest.”

Read the full story here.

 

ETFMG Extends Sponsorship of UFC Veteran Heavyweight Alexey Oleynik

SUMMIT, N.J.May 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — ETF Managers Group (ETFMG), an industry leader in bringing innovative thematic ETFs to market, has announced the extension of its headline-making partnership with powerhouse UFC heavyweight, Alexey Oleynik. The extension of this unique sponsorship comes ahead of Oleynik’s upcoming fight in UFC’s highly anticipated return to live television this Saturday, May 9, in Jacksonville, FL.

Oleynik, known to UFC fans as “The Boa Constrictor,” has been representing ETFMG’s rare marketing efforts, successfully bridging the gap between next gen investors and the financial community since March of 2019. With the extension of his contract, Oleynik will continue as a brand representative for MJ (NYSE:MJ), the U.S. first and world’s largest cannabis ETF, GAMR (NYSE:GAMR), the first video game tech ETF, along with the addition of the firm’s most recent product launch, IVES (NYSE:IVES), giving investors access to the next $1T in global cloud technology spending.

 

See the full story here.

Chris Silva Featured in Spurs and Feathers Magazine

DREAMSCAPE: Chris Silva fulfills lifelong quest, enjoys NBA rookie season with Miami Heat

Some days Chris Silva stands on the balcony of his high-rise apartment in downtown Miami and peers right, over the rollerbladers below and past American Airlines Arena. He gazes over Bayside Marina, beyond the docked cruise ships and out onto the horizon.

Somewhere in the distance lies his past, in Gabon, Africa, where he was an unknown youth with untapped potential — on the basketball court and in life — and a dream.

Read more here.

Bob Zito in ROI-NJ on How COVID-19 is Impacting Sports and Entertainment

At IPZ, diversity of clients — and sectors represented — always is on display

How Warren-based agency continues to represent athletes, entertainers from around the world during coronavirus crisis

 

The diversity of clients the agency represents is worth noting. And it’s not just having basketball, baseball and soccer stars along with mixed martial arts competitors. Or a Ukranian actress, bilingual Hispanic TV personality from Colombia and a voice-over specialist from Florida.

No, it’s the total mixture of sports and entertainment that makes Warren-based IPZ different, founder and Managing Partner Bob Zito said. And he said he wouldn’t have it any other way…

 

Read the full story here.

IPZ New Talent Announcement in NJBiz

College basketball star signs with Zito Partners-allied IPZ

Pat Andree, an All-ACC Academic Team selection at North Carolina State University and one the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Elite 3-Point shooters, has signed with IPZ, an alliance with Warren-based Zito Partners.

The 6-foot-8-inch power forward hails from Colts Neck, and Christian Brothers Academy, one of New Jersey’s perennial high school powerhouse programs, where he became the school’s leading scorer, breaking the 40-year-old record set by Bob Roma.

Read more here.

IPZ Signs Pat Andree in CentralJersey

Colts Neck native, CBA grad Pat Andree ready to start pro basketball career

Pat Andree is gearing up for the next chapter in his basketball career. Andree, a native of Colts Neck, has signed with the sports agency IPZ and is preparing to play professional basketball overseas.

 

Read more here.

Andree Signs…Oleynik and Prudius Wait…FDNY Serves…and Clayton Joins – IPZ’s Latest Newsletter

Pat Andree to be Represented by IPZ

Pat Andree, an All-ACC Academic Team selection at North Carolina State University and one the NCAA’s Elite 3-Point shooters, has signed with IPZ, Andree and IPZ announced today.

The six-foot-eight stretch 4 power forward comes from Colts Neck, N.J., and Christian Brothers Academy, one of New Jersey’s perennial high school powerhouse programs, where he became the school’s leading scorer, breaking the 40-year-old record set by Bob Roma.

From CBA, Andree went to Lehigh University, starting in multiple games as a freshman on a senior-laden team that went to the Patriot League championship game. During his freshman season with the Mountain Hawks, Andree broke onto the national scene with an ESPN Top Ten performance, scoring a career-high 30 points against Saint Francis (Pa.). In that game, Andree made 10 threes (on 12 attempts) to set a school record.

During his sophomore season, Andree started in 29 of 30 games, averaging 12.6 points and shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range (79-184), helping the Mountain Hawks to the Patriot League Semi-Finals. Andree tormented league opponents as a match-up nightmare, stretching the floor as the league’s top Frontcourt 3-Point shooter, shooting 48.7% (55-113) from behind the arc in league play. He was 4th overall in the league in 3-point shooting, and 23rd in the nation, reaching double figures in 21 games and adding 5.8 rebounds per game. He was named First team All-Academic Patriot League.

During his junior season at Lehigh, Andree led the team in rebounds, was named to the Academic All-Patriot League team for the second straight season and had double-figure points in 22 of 29 games. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds and shot better than 42 percent from behind the arc in his final two seasons with the Mountain Hawks.

He was named to the Patriot League Honor Roll each year as a student-athlete during his tenure at Lehigh, graduating in three-years, and earning a degree in Psychology in May 2019.

At NC State, as a graduate transfer, Andree was named to the All-ACC Academic team, despite suffering an ankle injury versus Clemson in the 16th game of the season. Until that point in the season, he was averaging 9.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 22 minutes per game, starting in four of those games. He had shot 48% (23 of 48) from behind the three-point line up to that point in the season and was ranked among the top 5 in the ACC.

In the opening game of the season against Georgia Tech, Andree started for the Wolfpack scoring 12 points and pulling down 8 rebounds in his ACC debut. Against Florida Int’l, with the Wolfpack down 12 points in the first half, he came off the bench to score 14 consecutive points in under three minutes, including a 4-for-4 stretch from 3-point land to spark North Carolina State a runaway victory. On the road against UNC Wilmington, Andree knocked down 5-of-7 three-point attempts to lift the Wolfpack to a one-point Quad 1 win while surpassing 1,000 career points in NCAA-Division 1 play.

After knocking down a crucial 3-point shot versus Syracuse on the road, Andree suffered an injury to his ankle and his play was limited during the remainder of the season.

“Pat is a terrific young man and he was a great addition to our program,” said North Carolina State head basketball coach Kevin Keatts. “He is an elite-level shooter who has an incredible knowledge of the game. He also has a strong work ethic and is a fantastic teammate. Pat’s presence will make any locker room better and I believe he has a long professional career in front of him.”

“Patrick is not just an outstanding athlete, he is an amazing young man who has a tremendous basketball IQ and will only excel in the future,” said IPZ Managing Partner Robert Zito. “He has fully recovered from the ankle injury that impacted his season at NC State, and will be an asset to a professional team moving forward.”

“I had a great experience at North Carolina State, following my three-years at Lehigh,” said Andree. “I was so excited to play in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, but the COVID-19 pandemic robbed everyone of that dream this year. I was pleased to have garnered the interest of several agents as my desire to continue to play basketball as a professional is strong and I am seriously committed to further developing my game. I feel very fortunate to have joined the IPZ family and proud to have their team of professionals helping me.”

Alexey Oleynik Set To Take On Next Opponent In UFC 250…

Alexey Oleynik signs his fight contract with Sam Masucci, CEO of ETF Managers Group, his sponsor. Photo by Jim Salzano.

While he has continued to train for his May 9 fight against former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, IPZ’s Alexey Oleynik is still awaiting confirmation about the site for what will be one of UFC’s biggest ever events.

“It has been frustrating, but I understand everyone’s safety is the most important concern,” Oleynik said. “Keeping my family safe and the safety of our UFC fans has to be the key.”

The star-studded card was announced this week.

“I welcome the fight against Werdum,” said Oleynik. “When the fight can eventually happen, we will put on a good show. And don’t bet against me.”

Known as the “Boa Constrictor,” Oleynik has a record of 58-13-1 and won his last fight, against Maurice Greene with a second round submission.

Oleg Prudius Puts “Miami Heat” on Hold Amidst COVID-19

Photo by Slav Gordeyev

Photo by Slav Gordeyev

Oleg Prudius was two weeks away from completing shooting on the new movie, Miami Heat, when the coronavirus shut down filming in Miami.

“It was unfortunate, but we all understand the need to save lives,” said Prudius.

Miami Heat stars Prudius as a dad who searches for his daughter after she is abducted by a ruthless sex trafficking ring.

“I have to kill the bad guys,” Oleg said with a laugh. “Easy for me to do.”

Supporting the FDNY and First Responders

Our IPZ family knows I serve as the vice-chair of the FDNY Foundation. These past five weeks have been especially hard on our first responders, including those in the FDNY, both firefighters and EMS personnel.

Thanks to Bill Schwartz, CEO and founding partner of Vector Media, and a fellow FDNY Foundation Board member, New Yorkers are being reminded that our first responders need our support now.

Thanks Bill. And thanks to the members of the FDNY who are working around the clock to help New York…and first responders around the country who are on the front lines in fighting this pandemic.

For more information or to contribute, please visit www.fdnyfoundation.org

Emily Clayton Joins IPZ as Client Sponsorships Manager

Emily Clayton has joined IPZ as Client Sponsorships Manager, effective April 1.

A 2018 graduate of The University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, and Specialization in Sport and Entertainment Management, Emily worked in the Corporate Partnerships department for the Miami Heat during Dwyane Wade’s final season. After the 2018-19 basketball season, she transitioned to the agency side of sports and entertainment management as an event coordinator at Octagon.

A North Carolina native and resident, Emily is a certified personal trainer, as well as a certified nutrition coach.

“I look forward to working with IPZ’s clients in their endeavors outside of their chosen sport or media,” Clayton said. “With new technological advances and social media platforms, I know each of our clients will find a niche tailored to their own interests. It’s my job to help them find those opportunities.”

“In her first few weeks, Emily has brought enthusiasm, out-of-the-box thinking and a disciplined approach to her role that we hope pays dividends for our clients,” said IPZ Managing Partner, Robert Zito. “Best of all, she doesn’t hesitate to pick up the phone call and call people – sometimes a missing talent with today’s young professionals.”

PAT ANDREE TO BE REPRESENTED BY IPZ

WARREN, N.J., (April 16, 2020) — Pat Andree, an All-ACC Academic Team selection at North Carolina State University and one the NCAA’s Elite 3-Point shooters, has signed with IPZ, Andree and IPZ announced today.

 

The six-foot-eight stretch 4 power forward comes from Colts Neck, N.J., and Christian Brothers Academy, one of New Jersey’s perennial high school powerhouse programs, where he became the school’s leading scorer, breaking the 40-year-old record set by Bob Roma.

 

From CBA, Andree went to Lehigh University, starting in multiple games as a freshman on a senior-laden team that went to the Patriot League championship game. During his freshman season with the Mountain Hawks, Andree broke onto the national scene with an ESPN Top Ten performance, scoring a career-high 30 points against Saint Francis (Pa.). In that game, Andree made 10 threes (on 12 attempts) to set a school record.

 

During his sophomore season, Andree started in 29 of 30 games, averaging 12.6 points and shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range (79-184), helping the Mountain Hawks to the Patriot League Semi-Finals. Andree tormented league opponents as a match-up nightmare, stretching the floor as the league’s top Frontcourt 3-Point shooter, shooting 48.7% (55-113) from behind the arc in league play. He was 4th overall in the league in 3-point shooting, and 23rd in the nation, reaching double figures in 21 games and adding 5.8 rebounds per game. He was named First team All-Academic Patriot League.

 

During his junior season at Lehigh, Andree led the team in rebounds, was named to the Academic All-Patriot League team for the second straight season and had double-figure points in 22 of 29 games. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds and shot better than 42 percent from behind the arc in his final two seasons with the Mountain Hawks.

 

He was named to the Patriot League Honor Roll each year as a student-athlete during his tenure at Lehigh, graduating in three-years, and earning a degree in Psychology in May 2019.

 

At NC State, as a graduate transfer, Andree was named to the All-ACC Academic team, despite suffering an ankle injury versus Clemson in the 16th game of the season. Until that point in the season, he was averaging 9.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 22 minutes per game, starting in four of those games. He had shot 48% (23 of 48) from behind the three-point line up to that point in the season and was ranked among the top 5 in the ACC.

 

In the opening game of the season against Georgia Tech, Andree started for the Wolfpack scoring 12 points and pulling down 8 rebounds in his ACC debut. Against Florida Int’l, with the Wolfpack down 12 points in the first half, he came off the bench to score 14 consecutive points in under three minutes, including a 4-for-4 stretch from 3-point land to spark North Carolina State a runaway victory. On the road against UNC Wilmington, Andree knocked down 5-of-7 three-point attempts to lift the Wolfpack to a one-point Quad 1 win while surpassing 1,000 career points in NCAA-Division 1 play.

 

After knocking down a crucial 3-point shot versus Syracuse on the road, Andree suffered an injury to his ankle and his play was limited during the remainder of the season.

 

“Pat is a terrific young man and he was a great addition to our program,” said North Carolina State head basketball coach Kevin Keatts. “He is an elite-level shooter who has an incredible knowledge of the game. He also has a strong work ethic and is a fantastic teammate. Pat’s presence will make any locker room better and I believe he has a long professional career in front of him.”

 

“Patrick is not just an outstanding athlete, he is an amazing young man who has a tremendous basketball IQ and will only excel in the future,” said IPZ Managing Partner Robert Zito. “He has fully recovered from the ankle injury that impacted his season at NC State, and will be an asset to a professional team moving forward.”

 

“I had a great experience at North Carolina State, following my three-years at Lehigh,” said Andree. “I was so excited to play in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, but the COVID-19 pandemic robbed everyone of that dream this year. I was pleased to have garnered the interest of several agents as my desire to continue to play basketball as a professional is strong and I am seriously committed to further developing my game. I feel very fortunate to have joined the IPZ family and proud to have their team of professionals helping me.”

FanSided: Chris Silva has work to do

By David Ramil

A lifetime of relentless work has carried Chris Silva from Gabon, to South Carolina, to his new NBA home with the Miami Heat.

There are long days that separate the few minutes when Chris Silva is free to let loose, to dive to the floor or elbow his way past an opponent for a rebound. During the quiet in between, he calmly looks out the hurricane-proof glass of his hotel room, over swaying palms, and waters gentle and coarse, imagining what might be on the other side.

Silva is an undrafted rookie and spent his first few months in the NBA on a two-way contract with the Miami Heat. He never traveled to Sioux Falls, where the Heat’s G-League affiliate is based because it is cold and lonely and basketball can be your only focus. But the team arranges for the room and when they travel and Silva is with them, he packs away what few belongings he keeps with him and puts them in storage, then undoes the process upon his return.

It’s a little inconvenient to be uprooted, Silva acknowledges, but he’s grateful for the opportunity it has come to symbolize. The hotel also has some advantages. There’s a restaurant downstairs and a few others around the corner. It’s just blocks away from the AmericanAirlines Arena so it’s easy to walk — headphones on, shoulders hunched — unrecognized to work. Best of all, there’s that window, the one with views beyond the palms and Biscayne Bay and the waters that become the Atlantic Ocean, connecting Miami to the powdery beaches of Gabon.

A connection to home.

Eight years ago, Silva boarded the first plane of his life on a flight from Gabon to Addis Adiba, then another to Rome, a third to Dallas, before finally arriving in Washington, D.C., confused and lost and without much knowledge of English beyond four words. An assistant coach, Tommy Sacks, with ties to Gabon had arranged for Silva to begin his American basketball journey at Roselle High School, a Catholic private school in New Jersey. He had never met Silva, didn’t know what to expect when he asked the gangly 6-foot-5 teenager what he wanted to do after spending over a day flying across time zones and those same Atlantic waters. Silva used up his English vocabulary in one shot. “I told him ‘Coach, I go NBA,’” says Silva now with a laugh.

The English has improved considerably, and Silva nestles easily into a leathery booth in that restaurant downstairs, some 6,000-plus miles from his hometown of Libreville. The hotel is awash in an edgy, sexy kitsch. A portrait of a woman’s mouth chewing on a heart-shaped lollipop hangs nearby. A metal sculpture of…something glistens in the corner. In the background, a fusion jazz trio rehearses before the evening crowd arrives to pay too much for the sea bass and questionable ambiance. A gym bag sits to Silva’s right, a paper bag with takeout lunch to his left.

The Heat had the day off but Silva put in some work anyway because it won’t count toward the 45 days his contract allowed him to spend at practice or in games. A teammate who drives recommended a Tex-Mex place in nearby Wynwood, where artists and aficionados from around the world had flocked for the art fair known as Art Basel (pronounced “Baah-sel”). Perhaps they can afford the sea bass but Silva was just there for the burritos.

He has adjusted to this new life in the United States and appreciates the food growing cold by his side. “But I miss my grandma’s home cooking. A lot.” He talks about the freshness of it, how he considers that Gabon has the best pizza in the world. He can’t explain why it was so good, but nostalgia might be the best ingredient of all.

His earliest basketball memories are of chasing after his father, Jose, a player with the Gabonese men’s national team who also played professionally for a number of international leagues. “I have pictures in my head of me saying, ‘I wanna watch you play basketball,’” as he’d walk into packed arenas buzzing with excitement. Young Chris would watch Jose intently, on the court as well as off, a celebrity who knew everyone, playing a sport that seemed to have a huge following in Gabon.

As he grew, Chris and Jose spent less and less time together but basketball had already taken hold. In Gabonese schools, teachers who taught “sports classes” would also teach at local clubs, and Silva earned academic points for his participation. He started playing for the pure enjoyment of it, practicing in gyms that became emptier and emptier almost in direct contrast to Silva’s love of the sport. He made new friends that had a passing interest in basketball but developing as a player was impossible as that interest waned. “Basketball just died in my country,” Silva says.

Undeterred, he took the game more seriously than ever before, almost single-handedly trying to bring it back to life. He played on one, two, three clubs, playing against competition that was inferior, even as Silva himself was raw and unskilled. But he was tall, athletic, and determined, and drew the attention of a coach on the Gabonese national team. It was a step but not enough. “In my spirit,” he says, “I wanted to go the NBA.”

A scout and coach with the national team, Joe Touomou, saw promise in Silva. Touomou had played in the United States for Georgetown University, and still had contacts with American coaches. He reached out to Sacks, sending grainy video of a lanky 14-year-old that played with passion and promise, if not much skill. Sacks took a chance and told Touomou that there was a spot in Roselle for Silva if he wanted it. “My coach asked me if I wanted to play in the United States,” says Silva. Even years later, he’s unable to repress a wide grin and turns his long hands over, palms upward in a plea — are you kidding me? — that has already been heard. “‘Man, that’s every kid’s dream! Let’s do it!’” he told Touomou.

Despite Jose’s long affiliation with the sport, he was hesitant to let his son travel overseas by himself and likely fall short of his goal. Carine Obame, Chris’ mother, shared her former husband’s reluctance. Chris was disappointed, heartbroken by the lack of support. But he was more determined than ever, going as far as to fill out whatever paperwork was needed to procure a passport and visa, a teenager cutting through red tape with scissors made of nothing but hope. “Something was driving me,” he says, gathering what belongings fit into a single bag as he prepared to leave home, unsure if he’d ever return. He boarded the first of four planes and embarked on a new life in the United States.

Roselle was cold and unusual, Silva recalls. Technically a sophomore when he enrolled in the school, he was hosted by one family for a year, spent the next with yet a different host, then spent his senior year with a teammate and his family. Silva struggled to fit in. In Libreville, he spoke French as well as a Portuguese-based Creole, neither of which were common among a mostly-white student body of about 300 students. He took multiple courses in French and learned how to translate his native tongue into English.

But when it came to learning from his coaches, he relied mostly on sight, reading lips to understand what words they might be using. “I had no choice, man,” he says today. “You get one or two words and try to figure out the sentence. [I’d] go to work out, and my coaches would say, ‘Take one, two dribbles and shoot.’ and I didn’t know what they meant at first. But from the motion, I would understand what they were saying.” He’d string words together, recognize them the next time they were used, and eventually started to form complete sentences. Within three months, he understood English well enough but it would take him years before he was comfortable speaking it.

He was a good high school player, frenetic and tireless. He lacked fundamentals and the experience; didn’t have a support system intent on him reaching the league. Still, he outworked even the best players in the nation, top recruits like Karl-Anthony Towns, and was productive despite skills that were as limited as his grasp on English. When scholarship offers from top schools began reaching him at Roselle, Sacks advised him to consider an easier route.

“‘You wanna go to the NBA? The plan is to go to a low major. Ball out. Hope for an NBA scout to see you instead of going to a school with a lot of good players and struggling.’” Prudent advice, maybe, but not exactly encouraging. The words still sting years later, even if they just add fuel to Silva’s inexhaustible competitive fires. “I was like, ‘Man, you think I can’t do it?’”

One offer came from the University of South Carolina. The Gamecocks head coach, Frank Martin, had a longstanding relationship with Sacks, who continued to laud Silva to schools around the country. “He was so raw, so brand new to basketball,” says Martin. Silva had good hands and was athletic, and he was competitive and didn’t shy away from physicality. “More importantly, Tommy just raved about Chris’ character.” Martin’s deep bass reaches reverential levels when discussing character, views it as the greatest quality of any recruit he’s considering. He doesn’t dismiss talent outright. “But work ethic and character, that’s what allows players — and people in general — to succeed. That’s just life.”

The appreciation was mutual. “Coach Frank said, ‘If you come to my school, I’m going to make you work every day,’ and I thought if I go to a coach like that, there’s no way I can’t succeed.” He committed immediately.

South Carolina was a more comfortable upgrade for Silva, hot and humid with the occasional palm trying to escape the mossy embrace of a weeping willow. The warmth did not extend to the basketball court, however, where Silva’s athleticism couldn’t make up for a glaring lack of experience and skill. “Every day of my freshman year was terrible,” Silva recalls. Martin’s legendarily intense practices were an extreme that even the hard-working Silva wasn’t prepared for. Mistakes were frequent and resulted in running and working to the point of exhaustion for hours at a time. “I was going crazy,” he says, casting his eyes downward. “I would go to my dorm and think, ‘Do I even wanna keep playing basketball?’”

But the goal of the NBA was closer than ever and so Silva recommitted himself, getting lost in the work. He added pounds of muscle to his now 6-foot-8 frame, becoming a fixture in the Gamecocks weight room. Just as he had fought through adversity in Gabon and then at Roselle, he would learn how to navigate through Martin’s constant demands.

“I was hard on him,” Martin admits, remembering a time when his wife even pointed out that he might have been gone too far during one particular game. Martin realized she might have been right, and called Silva into his office during the team’s next practice, ready to apologize. “I said, ‘Chris, I can’t expect you to be successful with me criticizing you like this.’ He just got this confused look on his face. I wondered if he was okay, if maybe I had gone too far but then he says, ‘Coach, I didn’t come here for you to be nice to me. I want you to push me like that.’ I was just blown away. I wasn’t used to players like that. But that’s just who he is. He didn’t want the easy stuff. He wanted the challenge. He wanted more.”

Silva would improve during each of his four years in South Carolina, earning All-SEC honors for two years and was selected as the conference Defensive Player of the Year. He was the one that opposing coaches would dread knowing their team’s chances of winning would become that much less likely. Opposing players would roll their eyes in frustration — Man, we gotta play him? —  knowing they were going to be outworked, that there would undoubtedly be bruises the following day.

And none of it mattered as he watched the 2019 NBA Draft and never heard his name called.

“I was disappointed that NBA people didn’t believe he could succeed at that level,” said Martin as he rattled off Silva’s accomplishments at South Carolina. “He never caved because of adversity. He grew because of it. I told everyone that called me [before the draft], ‘If you let him in, you won’t let him out.’ And that’s exactly what’s happening.”

The Miami Heat aren’t exactly a pipeline for Martin’s top players but there’s a shared ideology that breeds familiarity. Udonis Haslem, the leading rebounder in franchise history, played for “Coach Frank” at Miami Senior High School. Miami selected Michael Beasley in the 2008 draft after playing for Martin at Kansas State, as did Rodney McGruder, who spent three seasons with the Heat and is now with the Clippers. “We have tremendous respect for players that go through [Martin’s] program,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told The Step Back, “because they don’t skip any steps. They have to be about the same things as we are to be able to make it through there. They wind up becoming the best version of themselves as a result.”

The Heat brought in Silva to work with their Summer League team in July, then signed him to a two-way contract before the start of the 2019-20 regular season. While most two-way players spend time jetting between the NBA club and their G-League affiliate, Silva was a rare exception.

Silva is 23 now and still raw as he adjusts to another level. He doesn’t show off much on offense, not because he can’t but because he understands his role on a team loaded with perimeter shooters. Instead, he just continues to work, providing that constant energy and physicality, chasing after rebounds and finishing at the rim over players with more experience. He took one bag and one goal with him when he left Gabon — to go the NBA — and he’s achieved it.

Spoelstra acknowledges that Silva needs time to fully adjust but shows no concern that it won’t happen, even comparing him to center Bam Adebayo, who became an All-Star in his third season. He raves, as Martin did, about Silva’s work ethic and character. “Chris will continue to evolve because of his commitment. That’s what is going to drive him and make him who he wants to be in this league,” says Spoelstra excitedly, “I don’t think he’ll ever change.”

View the full story on FanSided.

IPZ Board Member Bob Hurley Remembers Taking On Kobe Bryant

Bob Hurley remembers when St. Anthony played against Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion

By Dan Canova

Bob Hurley remembers it like it was yesterday.

When St. Anthony traveled down to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia during the 1995-96 high school basketball season to take on Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant was the No. 1 senior player in the entire country.

Prior to the game, a former scout from the Boston Celtics went over to Hurley and asked for his thoughts on the 17-year-old, who in just a few months would be drafted into the NBA and end up being one of the greatest players to walk the face of the Earth.

“I was just telling him how I thought he was a tremendous player,” Hurley recalled. “He was so versatile and poised… But I had no idea that he was going to be this great. I could only see that he would have been a really good player in college. But I couldn’t see at 17 years old, by the time he was 19 or 20, what was apparent to everybody.”

Hurley then went into the locker room to share with his team that NBA scouts were at the game to see Bryant play. St. Anthony was without its two best players at the time, Anthony Perry and Rashon Burno, due to missing school and practice the previous day. And since it was a day before the game, if you didn’t practice, you didn’t play.

Even without Burno and Perry, St. Anthony held a halftime lead and eventually pulled out a 15-point victory over Lower Merion, despite 28 points from Bryant. But it was after the game, what Hurley remembered most about Bryant.

“I thought the really nice thing was after the game ended, he asked me if the two of us could sit down and talk,” Hurley said. “And he just wanted me to go over the things that I saw with him, and the things that I thought he needed to get better at.

“When the second half started, we were up one point, and I didn’t think he had everybody ready for the second half of the game,” he added. “We jumped into a 10-point lead. I told him that he should have been all over his team in a dead-even game to win the first four minutes of the third quarter. He came out and played terrific, but he didn’t have the rest of them fired up. So, we got up 10 and maintained that the rest of the game. He thanked me and I told him to keep doing everything he’s doing.”

The previous year, Lower Merion actually made the trip up to Jersey City, and the Friars hosted Bryant as a junior at the No. 28 school in the Heights, which at the time was St. Anthony’s home court.

Hurley said it was unusual because when an out-of-state team would play St. Anthony, the Friars would normally go to them first, and then the following year the opposing team would say they have a scheduling conflict, and they couldn’t make the trip to Jersey City. But Lower Merion’s head coach Gregg Downer called up Hurley and said that they wanted to come up and play in Bryant’s junior year, only if they agreed to go down to Philadelphia for his senior season.

Hurley recalled that “a normal crowd was at the game, and nobody knew that a tremendous talent was in Jersey City that night.” Bryant ended up with 35 points and was phenomenal, according to Hurley.

“In my own household, my wife didn’t think Kobe was that good because we beat them twice in a row,” Hurley said. “And she felt that he should have been able to beat us on his own, which I thought was a little disrespectful to our team because we won the Tournament of Champions both in ’95 and ’96. We had two really good teams with eight or nine kids that ended up playing at the college level.”

When Hurley was at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2010, Bryant was there for the Los Angeles Lakers late great owner Jerry Buss, who was also inducted. Hurley recalls due to the madness of that night, he didn’t even know Bryant was there, but he would have loved to share a few minutes with him and just talk to him.

On Sunday afternoon, Hurley was just minutes into his drive leaving UConn’s Harry A. Gampel Pavilion after watching his son Danny coach the Huskies, and he received a call from Danny’s wife, Andrea, with the heartbreaking news that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people who had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

“Things happen in life, but for three different families to be decimated with this, the effects that it’s going to have on the remaining family members, it’s just something we are going to remember for a long time,” Hurley said. “In its own way, when John Kennedy died in the plane crash, and the biggest one in my life the assassination of John F. Kennedy, this is up there with them. I’ll remember this the rest of my life. On the ride home from UConn, we turned on the radio because we had hours on the way back from the game. And as you piece together all of the information, it was just tragedy.”

View the story on NJ.com.