Metro Atlanta’s only first place professional sports franchise is headed to Vegas to battle for a mid-season trophy. The College Park Skyhawks, first place in the NBA G League’s Eastern Division with an overall record of 12-4, will be participating in the league’s Showcase Cup for a $100,000 prize and midseason bragging rights. The annual tournament among the league’s top teams begins Monday afternoon with games being aired on ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN 2, ESPN+ and NBA TV.

Malk Ellison (0) is averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds per game this season. Photo. courtesy of College Park Skyhawks

College Park Skyhawks second-year head coach Steve Gansey sat down with The Atlanta Voice on the eve of the tournament to speak about his team’s hot play of late – The Skyhawks have won 9 of their last 10 games- and the opportunity to win a trophy for the Southside.

The Skyhawks are 7-1 at home this season, and a lot of that success has to do with the veterans players on the roster, including Langston Galloway (12 points per game, 4 rebounds this season), AJ Lawson (20 points and 6.6 rebounds per game), Armoni Brooks (15.8 points per game) and Malik Ellison (9.4 points, 4 rebounds). All of the players have NBA experience and give the Skyhawks and Gansey an advantage night after night. “Every year is different, different players, different staff, for a couple of us, the team and the staff, we do remember what happened last year around this time,” said Gansey about the team’s 0-8 start to the 2021-22 season.

First-year Atlanta Hawks reserves Trent Forrest and Jarrett Culver will also join the Skyhawks roster later this season as both are playing a lot with the big club early in the season. Forrest in particular is playing a vital role with the Hawks while Dejounte Murray is out of the lineup. During the past 10 games Forrest is averaging just over 23 minutes per game for the Hawks.

Veteran guard Langston Galloway (9) has been one of the team’s most consistent players, averaging 12 points and 4 rebounds per game.
Photo courtesy of College Park Skyhawks

Gansey said one of the goals for this season was to qualify for the Showcase Cup, and “unfortunately we didn’t do that last year,” he said. “We were one of the bottom teams.”

No longer at the bottom of the standings, the Skyhawks, along with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (South), Ontario Clippers (West) and South Bay Lakers (West) have the best records in the league. “We needed to get off to a better start regardless who we have player-wise,” acknowledged Gansey. “There’s a lot of factors that play a role in the first 14, 16 games of the season and it’s great to see that these guys really bought in early on.”

College Park opens the tournament tonight (10 p.m. ET, ESPNU) as the number three overall seed and will play the Cleveland Charge and former Skyhawks player and Atlanta Hawks second round draft pick Sharife Cooper.

Cooper, a metro Atlanta native, is averaging 25.8 points per game and just under eight assists per game this season. A victory would move the Skyhawks to the championship game on Thursday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 2).

The College Park Skyhawks are 9-1 in their last 10 games and come into the Showcase Cup tied for the best overall record in the league.
Photo courtesy of College Park Skyhawks

Gansey doesn’t care who his team plays during the tournament, he feels like they will give the same effort they have been putting forth all season. “I feel confident in our guys, it’s not a home game or an away game, but whoever we play we’re going to give it our all,” he said.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...