Basketball: G League Bulls Deepen Connection With City In New Season

By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)

After completing a 50-27 record with a playoff appearance last season, the Windy City Bulls are back on the grind for what they hope to be another another successful season while kicking off their 2019-20 campaign.

A slew of new players are available to the Windy City this year along with a new head coach in former Capital City Go-Go (Washington Wizards G-League affiliate) assistant Damian Cotter and all are looking to provide a fresh energy to win games, strive for another playoff push and add to last year’s success.

In order to live up to those ambitions, the relationships between the new sheriff and its colleagues have to be strong to continue that upward rate of success. At the team’s media day, Cotter expounded on the importance of building chemistry with his coaching staff and players while also fulfilling his job in player development for the next phases of their careers.

“[Building chemistry] is a high priority and I like how the guys treat each other on and off the court,” coach Cotter said. “I want these guys to develop. It is a passion of mine. My background has been on development and I really want these guys to have the opportunity to move on/thrive at the next level.”

Along with getting used to the new coach in place, the Windy City Bulls have seemed to use a specific strategy this season of fostering its connections to the Windy City area to help boost the talent of the franchise. The Bulls have 3 players with Chicago-area ties in Max Strus (DePaul), Thomas Wilder (Montgomery, Ill.) and Milton Doyle (Loyola-Chicago). 

Before playing at DePaul, Strus was a standout playing his first two years at Lewis University. During his tenure at DePaul, the Hickory Hills native became the first Blue Demon to score over 700 points in a single season since Mark Aguirre. At the media day, Strus spoke on what it meant to him to represent home while playing for hometown team.

“I’ve been in Chicago my whole life. I’m from here, grew up here and never really left,” Strus told WARR Media. “It’s worked for me. This is the best city in the world and I’m happy to play here.”

Doyle was born and raised in Chicago, playing for Marshall High School before committing to four years with Loyola-Chicago from 2013-2017. Short stays in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets and overseas in Spain followed before Doyle found himself with the hometown team. To be able to stay local and play at home means a lot to Doyle, and that’s mostly because he knows the magnitude of what it means to be a Chicago hooper. 

“[Playing at home] means a lot,” Doyle said. “Knowing Chicago basketball and the type of city Chicago is I think it is a hard working city and when it comes to basketball, we have some of the toughest guys. To be able to play home around friends and family means a lot to me.”

Wilder, a second-year G-League player, is a product of Community Unit School District 308 and Oswego East and Oswego High School before attending Western Michigan and becoming the first player since 1993 to earn first-team All-MAC in back to back seasons (2017, 2018) since 1992-93, filling up stat sheets in all categories while finish as the second-leading scorer in the conference. Wilder reminisced to me, a former teammate at Oswego, on his journey to the Bulls, and the importance of representing his hometown and family on one of the highest levels of professional sports. 

“Growing up I was never ‘the guy’ or never had a lot of buzz like other guys in the area, so for me to be at this level I take it as a blessing.” Wilder said.

“Last year, being my first year in the G-League, and having that support system right down the street is huge. I thank God, myself, my family and everybody that’s been involved in the process.”

Windy City Bulls president Brad Seymour spoke highly of the Chicago athletes the team has taken in, highlighting the importance of bringing in Chicago-area talent to the team and giving somewhat overlooked talent a path to walk down to continue realizing their dreams.

“The Chicago connection [with players] is always something we’ll take a look at,” Seymour said. “There is a huge talent pool here in the Chicagoland area. We are fortunate to get the guys with local ties and having those local connections are important for our fan base and those guys to be able to play in front of their friends and family.”

 Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media 

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