Phoenix Suns Training Camp Scrimmage
When: Friday, Sept. 29, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Prescott Valley Event Center
Tickets: Free to fans
Seating: First come, first serve
Top Players: Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, Marquese Chriss, Dragon Bender, Alex Len, T.J. Warren, former Northern Arizona Suns players Derrick Jones Jr., Elijah Millsap and more
RSVP: Fans are encouraged to RSVP for the scrimmage on Suns.com, and those who do so will be entered to win prizes included autographed merchandise and tickets to the Phoenix Suns’ regular season home opener Oct. 18 against the Portland Trailblazers
EDITOR'S NOTE: For the original news story on the Phoenix Suns announcing they'll host a training camp scrimmage at the Prescott Valley Event Center, click to read story here.
FLAGSTAFF — The Phoenix Suns opened training camp Tuesday morning like it was just another day at the office, because the truth is, they’ve been focused on this moment for months now.
All the preseason planning, individual workouts and basketball strategy sessions led up to Tuesday’s first peek at a team looking to rekindle its winning tradition.
And when tipoff comes Friday night at the club’s first-ever scrimmage within the walls of the Prescott Valley Event Center, local basketball fans will likely savor every minute.
With five rookies and four other players with just one year of NBA experience making up nearly half of the Suns’ 20-man training camp roster, Phoenix possesses one of the youngest clubs in the league.
But don’t tell former Northern Arizona Suns’ standout Derrick Jones Jr. that. He’s convinced being “young” won’t matter.
“We have a young team, but we’re growing. We’re not going to use that ‘young’ excuse any more,” Jones said Tuesday after practice.
Jones thrilled NBA Gatorade League crowds last season with his uncanny defensive abilities and high-flying dunks that earned him the nickname “Airplane Mode” and put him on the national stage during the 2017 NBA Slam Dunk Contest in February.
Jones is looking forward to returning to Prescott Valley on Friday.
“They embraced me with open arms,” Jones said. “They loved me and I loved every second I was there. It was a great experience being there.”
Devin Booker, who burst onto the scene last year for the Suns averaging 22.1 points per game in 78 appearances during his sophomore campaign, is looking forward to playing in Prescott Valley on Friday and hopes to be a leader on this year’s club.
“I’ve had a lot of experience since I’ve been here, I was thrown in the fire at a young age and I learned from that,” Booker said, adding he’s aiming to not make the same mistakes twice and lead by example.
“[I need to] bring it every day. Be a professional,” Booker said.
First round pick Josh Jackson out of Kansas is already revealing his ability to be a vocal leader, something that will surely be on display Friday in Prescott Valley.
“They know I’m a guy who likes to try really hard, give a lot of effort. They are hoping it will rub off on the guys here,” Jackson said.
Alec Peters, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward out of Valparaiso, was selected with the 54th overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft.
As a two-way contract player, Peters will likely spend a lot of time in a Northern Arizona Suns uniform this season, something he looks forward to.
“I’m honestly just looking forward to playing professional basketball. That’s always been the goal for me from the beginning,” Peters said. “If there’s more playing time with the NAZ Suns than with Phoenix, the coaches will decide that.”
Peters added he’s hoping for a “big crowd" Friday in Prescott Valley.
“I’m looking forward to playing against these guys in front of a live crowd and seeing how we do, see how we put this week together and hopefully have a good scrimmage,” Peters said.
Entering his second full season as head coach, Earl Watson said Friday’s scrimmage in Prescott Valley is all about community, something he preaches on a daily basis.
“If you look at our roster, we had a group of guys that committed their entire offseason to living in Phoenix,” Watson said. “Our group is different. Everything we’ve done in the offseason since the season is about community, so it’s not a different way of life, it’s the way we do things.”
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is associate sports editor and a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.