We are indebted to the Hawks Talon GC. During the early days of the pandemic, while we were locked in our apartments with no live sports to watch, they held us down. They weren’t without their own obstacles and challenges during that time. But despite some very unusual circumstances, their record improved from 5-11 in 2019 to 7-9 in 2020. However, the jump in wins doesn’t tell the full story.
When asked how the pandemic and remote play impacted performance this season, General Manager and Coach Wesley Acuff gave a clear answer. “Absolutely. But I wouldn’t use that as an excuse. I think every team in this league; it impacted the way they play. You know the biggest thing is we don’t play series on stage. So a lot of games we won the first game of the match, then we were reverse swept and lost the next two. When you’re on stage, you play one game, so win that first game, and it’s over.
Acuff continued, “But there’s challenges with the remote play for every team in this league, and everybody played under the same circumstances. So I can’t use that as an excuse for things we didn’t achieve.”
Despite outside factors beyond their control, the team set the tone early in the season against T-Wolves Gaming. It was ring night for the defending champions, but our young roster absolutely handled the more experienced team. Hawks Talon GC won 2-0 with an average margin victory of 23 points in the two games. BP (Michael Diaz-Cruz) snapped off for 37 points in the first game. Then in the second game, BP (Michael Diaz-Cruz) and KEL (Mykel Wilson) poured in 25 points and 23 points, respectively.
A crucial moment came late in the season against one of the top-ranked teams, Hornets Venom. FOLLOWTHEGOD (Kwan Niblack, Jr.) was out due to a family situation, so fourth-round pick and Atlanta native, ARKELE (Derrion Elmore), stepped into the lineup and ended up leading the league in 3P%. The team rallied together and narrowly defeated Hornets Venom 2-0. Following the game, the team dedicated the rest of the season to him—an incredible moment from a tight-knight group of guys.
The whole team had flashes of brilliance. Atlanta’s own KEL (Mykel Wilson) finished among the most improved players in the league. MRSTYLEZ (Andrew Valle), who played for the team last season, ended up switching positions from point guard to power forward and even small forward, finishing in the Top 15 in steals per game.
Thanks to the help of his teammates, LEE (Lee Lamb) stood out this year. The former first-round pick finished the regular season #1 in FG% and was among the league leaders in rebounds and blocks per game. He also holds the franchise record for double-double performances. Analysts thought the team was stretching by choosing him at the 16th spot, but he proved his value this season.
So, what’s next for the squad? It’s going to be a crucial offseason. All of the players will be free agents. However, in the past, the team has been able to protect two from the expansion draft. Then, if the team wants to, they can retain the other four players in exchange for their draft picks, so if we’re lucky, it could be another year of tremendous growth. Keep up with the team by following them on social media @HawksTalonGC.