Hidden Gems: NBA G-League games in Southaven

If you’re looking for something fun to do close to home, the NBA’s G-League is a great option for a cheap night out.

The G-League (formally the D-League/Developmental League) is the official minor league of the NBA. NBA teams are assigned a G-League affiliate where they can staff a team with young prospective NBA talent to develop their skills in hopes of getting a call-up to the NBA.

Major League Baseball (MLB) has a successful minor league system and the NBA is doing its best to mirror their model. The NBA has placed affiliate teams in nearby markets to serve as a launchpad for many players looking to join the professional basketball ranks. Unlike in baseball where you have Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A ball, the G-League has just one tier of teams.

The Hustle are affiliated with the Memphis Grizzlies, which makes all the sense in the world, considering they are just a short trip over the state line.

Lower-level tickets start out at $12 and the most expensive ticket is about $25– much more palatable than the prices you pay at the NBA level in the FedEx Forum.

The Hustle have a great roster this season, featuring a mix of players with regional ties and ties to the Grizzlies. The team is coached by Brad Jones, who played and coached at Lambuth University in nearby Jackson, Tenn. and later served as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

Former Arkansas Razorback sharpshooter Dusty Hannahs and former Memphis Tiger rimrocker D.J. Stephens are two players on the roster that will appeal to local collegiate fans.

The Grizzlies’ 2018 second round draft pick JeVon Carter (point guard, West Virginia University) and Japanese-born Yuta Watanabe (forward, George Washington University) both anchor the Hustle.

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I recently attended the Hustle’s opening night on Nov. 9 at the Landers Center in Southaven and had a great time.

Some things to keep in mind if you decide to attend a Hustle game:

  • Bring at least $5 in cash to pay to park (cash only)
  • You will go through metal detectors when you enter, so leave your pocket knives, pepper spray, etc. in the car

Opening night for the Hustle happened to also coincide with the season’s first Kids Club, which is an area on the floor with interactive inflatables for the kids, a team store and more. You can sign up for the Kids Club for free and you receive a free ticket to a Hustle game, a kids lanyard and your kid gets to shoot some layups after Friday night games.

The game is action packed, physical and uptempo.

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The in-game experience is on-par with an NBA game. The players are highly skilled and don’t take any plays off. They are all fighting for the right to be on an NBA roster. This game featured all the action you would expect from an NBA game: breakaway dunks, alley-oops, put-back dunks, crazy three pointers and show-stopping blocks.

The pep squad, for lack of a better name, throws out t-shirts during time outs, interacts with fans with trivia during the game and more. The usual in-game music and chant music is pumped into the arena during the game as well.

There was even a halftime performance from a world-record holding juggler who could juggle everything from bowling pins, to flying discs to tennis racquets. It was impressive.

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Besides the great game play and great ticket prices, the concession prices were price conscious, too.

Much of the menu was no more than $6 bucks, which featured pizza, chicken wings, hot dogs, nachos– the standard concession food. Plus plenty of snacks, soda, candy and beer. A refillable soda cup is $6, which is good for unlimited soda refills.

Since this was my first game, I cannot say for certain if this happens regularly, but Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace was in attendance for opening night, sporting a crimson sports jacket and sitting under the basket near the Hustle’s bench.

Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff also made an appearance at the game later in the first half, sitting on the other side of the goal as Wallace. Former NBA champion (with the 2004 “bad boy” Detroit Pistons squad) and 2008 gold medalist Tayshaun Prince was also spotted at the game court-side. Prince is now a front office executive with the Grizzlies.

After you’ve been to one game, if you’re like me, you’ll be looking forward to the next Hustle game. If it happens to be a game you can’t make or a road game, some Hustle games are broadcast on Facebook Watch and on ESPN’s new premium streaming service, ESPN+. You can check out the team’s full schedule and broadcast schedule here. At least two Hustle games will be broadcast on traditional television on NBATV and on ESPNU later this season.

The bottom line is the Hustle provide great entertainment value. Cheap parking, cheap food and cheap seats, but a great on-court product.

 

Review: Racks BBQ, Burgers & Brews

Racks BBQ, Burgers & Brews, a new concept restaurant located near the Landers Center and appropriately right next door to the Southern Thunder Harley Davidson motorcycle store in Southaven, offers up delicious food and a fun atmosphere to watch sports or enjoy some live music.

Racks is owned by Ericka Hahn and the team behind another Southaven staple: AC’s Steakhouse– her husband Aaron Hahn and Cynthia Borkowski, according to the Memphis Business Journal.

“We are trying to make barbecue sexy and fun,” co-owner Ericka Hahn said to the Memphis Business journal in May.

The restaurant would be best described as a more modest version of Hooters or Twin Peaks, but with more boots and more denim. The concept works well, especially being neighbors with Southern Thunder Harley Davidson motorcycle shop.

In a recent visit to Racks, I did my best to sample a little bit of everything.

A lot of the food and drink names are cheeky and fun. I tried the “Honey Hole,” a cocktail featuring Jack Honey, Sangria, Orange Juice and a splash of Grenadine. The “Baby Maker” also looked refreshing, featuring: vodka, Malibu rum, Watermelon Pucker, Triple Sec and lemonade. The average cocktail price is $7. If cocktails are not your thing, they offer plenty of beer options on tap and in bottles.

My wife and I tried the jalapeño whole wings, which were smoked and featured a fried dry rub with not-too-spicy jalapeño sauce and ranch dipping sauce. They were delicious! Perfect texture and quality meat.

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The jalapeño whole wings are delicious

I came hungry and glad I did, because I had the combo plate for my entrée and it did not disappoint. You can choose from 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, pulled pork, 1/2 bbq chicken, catfish, fried cod, fried shrimp and sides. You can see the full menu here.

For the persnickety eater in your party, if barbecue is not their thing, Racks offers some really good looking sandwiches and burgers.

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One of the combo plate options available at Racks BBQ, Burgers & Brews

I went with the 1/2 rack of baby back ribs and catfish. Let me tell you, the catfish was amazing. Perfectly crisp, flavorful and sizable. It’s some of the best fried catfish I’ve had in a longtime.

The ribs featured a house made barbecue sauce and perfectly smoked meat. In addition to the sides, the plate was topped off with texas toast and tartar sauce for the fried catfish.

I found the barbecue entrées to be slightly on the pricey side (prices range from $13 to $25) and not a price that I would want to pay regularly. But, that may be a good thing and encourage people to try other items on their menu. The burgers, sandwiches and appetizers are all considerably cheaper than the barbecue entrées.

Overall, the food was great, the atmosphere was friendly and service was solid. We visited Racks on a mid-to-late afternoon on Saturday. It was slightly past lunchtime and too early for dinner, but the restaurant was still mostly full. People were enjoying drinks, chatting with the Racks Girls and watching college football on one of the many tv screens and 10′ projector screen located near the live music stage.

If you follow Racks on Facebook, you’ll see they often run specials and let folks know about special events coming up, such as trivia nights, live music nights, Happy Hour specials and more. For example, on the day of this writing, Oct. 21, they are offering 20% off select appetizers and $2 off all their barbecue entrées. So, keep your eyes peeled for those specials.

Racks also features a ton of outdoor seating with a spacious patio and a rooftop deck, perfect for warm days, crisp nights and loud live music.

Racks BBQ, Burgers & Brews is a welcomed addition to the growing restaurant scene in North Mississippi.

Review: 8 out of 10

You can visit Racks BBQ, Burgers & Brews at 4840 Venture Dr. in Southaven.

Racks BBQ, Burgers & Brews on social media: on Facebook and Instagram