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Darius Days had plenty of success during his first season with the RGV Vipers. Sure, he has size, can handle the basketball and a streaky shooting touch.
But, maybe the most critical component to his good days are when nothing seems to be falling.
“If you’re not getting your shots or they’re not falling, go get some offensive rebounds and some put backs,” the 6-foot-7 small/power forward said. “Crash the glass, play hard.”
The philosophy helped Days average 24.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game – including a little more than three rebounds per contest on the offensive glass. He shot 49% from the floor and 37% from 3-point land.
Now, the Vipers and their opponents will see more of all that this year as the four-time NBA G-League champions continue their quest for a league-leading fifth-title (no other team has more than two titles) at 7 p.m. Friday at the Memphis Hustle to tip off the 2023-24 season.
The Vipers went on a magically manic run at the end of last season to clinch a playoff spot during the final regular-season game under first-year head coach Kevin Burleson. Seeded sixth in the Western Conference, they proceeded to knock out third-seeded South Bay, 124-122, second-seeded Memphis 110-108 and the fifth seed, Sioux City 110-105 to advance to a league best seventh championship series. Their postseason run ended with a two-game sweep by the Delaware Blue Coats for the title.
“We’re looking to make another run, back-to-back for sure,” Days said. “I’m excited and very confident. We have some of the same guys from last year and some different guys where I think we were more athletic last year but we have more talent and better basketball IQ this year.
“Memphis is not an easy task. We battled them game for game last year,” Days said. “But it’s a good test for our first two games and we get a chance to see what the new guys can bring.”
Their latest “new guy” is Cam Whitmore, the 20th pick of the 2023 NBA draft, a shocking pick for the Rockets, who figured Whitmore would be long gone from the draft board by that pick. Whitmore, who graduated from Villanova and was expected to be a lottery pick, will be available for the Vipers beginning Friday but it is unsure if he’ll be ready to play.
Whitmore won the NBA Sumer League MVP in July. Two-way players Nate Hinton and Jermaine Samuels were also transferred from the Rockets to the Vipers.
“We have a lot of guys who will help usa lot along the way,” Days said. “The new guys are picking their spots where they can show their talents. We really like some of these guys like Matthew Mayer and (John) Knight. They are very talented young guys and we love the way they perform.
“It’s fun being older. I was a rookie last year and didn’t know what was going on. This year, I have a better understanding of how the G League and how the NBA works. They ask a lot of questions, they want to be in the right place all the time – I tell them get to the corners, crash the glass and play hard.”
Days, a new father, played four games with the Vipers’ parent club, the Houston Rockets, last season, averaging 3.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. He said he has a plan for this year – be better.
“I want to be more present at the rim, put the ball on the floor a lot more instead of relying on my jump shot, which got me where I am today,” Days said. “It’s more mental for me. I want to be better than I was last year. I want to show everybody I’m better, and still getting better.
“They don’t like to lose down here and if we don’t win, some things may happen. Some guys may come in, some guys may go. I’m excited for the journey and for our team to make another run.”