Thoughts on What the Roster Should Look Like

Some PBL teams have already held try out camps, some have them planned and others are signing players already.  Halifax has been a bit silent on this front which is two bad because last year’s roster was a bit of a mess – lots of coming and going, lots of players too scared to go to the rim, a lack of rebounding, no real centre for 85% of the season, some bad attitudes, etc.  So after the jump I have my wishlist of things for the Rainmen to do when it comes to building a roster for the ’09 season.  It’s a start, but it’s really just to spur on some dialogue amongst readers:  what do we, as fans, want to see on the court this coming season?  Post your opinions in the comments section.

The one indication we have gotten is that the Rainmen are actively seeking to resign Eric Crookshank, Brian Silverhorn, Kadiri Richard and Jimmy Twyman.  My suggestions assume that they do resign those guys, if not then everything is up in the air.

#1 Find a Legit Centre

Neither Crookshanks nor Richard should be playing centre.  Eric is 6’7 and Kadiri is 6’8.  We need a big, blue collar rebounder down there to take charges, grab defensive boards and guard the other team’s best post player.  Eric and Kadiri can score, our centre doesn’t need to.  He doesn’t even have to an athletic defender because Crookshand and Richard can block from the weak side, and having them freed up from tight coverage on the post gives them more opportunities to swoop over and stuff someone.  This also creates a situation where Eric is no longer guarded by a 6’10 monster who he can’t back down.  The Rainmen need to find ways to exploit match up problems.  A guy in the same vein as Eric Nelson or Jon Clark would let them do this – a player like this should be Halifax’s first priority.

#2 Move Crookshank to SF and Silverhorn to SG

I admit that this seems strange, but hear me out.  These are the two guys with the best chance of making it to the next level (and by this I don’t really mean NBA, I mean D-League or top flight euro team) but neither of them will make it playing their current position.

At 6’7 Crookshank is waaaaay too small to play PF in a top flight league, and centre is out of the question.  His athleticism make his ability to play above the rim and put back missed shots remarkable as a swing man, at PF it’s not quite as outstanding.  He has the foot and hand speed to guard wing players and he is good at disrupting passing lanes.  With wing players matched up on him he can destroy them in the post and not only keep them from grabbing offensive boards, but can drastically increase his offensive rebounding stats as well since most wing players do not have the ability to box him out (or he can just dunk over them).  His biggest weakness is his limited shooting range, he is never going to get serious consideration unless he can consistantly knock down the outside shot.  Playing centre/PF in the PBL will not force him to improve that shot and that decision making, playing SF will.

Brian Silverhorn was a star in the NIAA but was inconsistent last season.  He had a really hard time getting open looks and Rick Lewis’ stagnant no-motion offense didn’t help matters.  He’s a pure shooter, but he does also have some face up moves.  I’d like to see him play as the team’s scoring guard now that Blandon the Tumor Ferguson is gone.  I also think that at 6’6 with his shooting ability better teams expect a guard skill set and he could use some work making decisions with the ball in his hands and guard quicker, smaller players.

These moves make the team BIG which is uncommon in the minor leagues.  It would also help to fix some of the major problems revolving around a lack of rebounding and interior defense that plagued the team last year.

#3  Bench players need roles/Role players needed on the bench.

Last year there was a log jam of mediocre players without specific roles on the bench.  No one knew what they were doing and people were disgruntled about it.  Lewis also would sub off entire lines of guys for no apparent reason and rarely had the right pieces in reserve to deal with problems (“oh shit!  There small forward is beating us off the dribble every time…. do I put Leboise Gladden or Derico Wigginton in to stop him?”)  Every player on that bench needs to be there for a reason and “He’s pretty decent, but he’s not one of our five best players” is not a good reason.

The most important role players that the team lacked last year and needs to pick up this year are:

  1. a lock down defender who can guard the other team’s best wing player
  2. a spark plug  guard off the bench who can get to the rim/foul line and score when there are multiple guys from the first line resting. (i.e. Devino Williams)
  3. a shooter from the bench for the nights when Twyman/Silverhorn are cold or if we’re down by 3 with one play left and need more shooters out there. (could be the same guy as spark plug guard)
  4. an energy/garbage guy who will dive after loose balls, grab some rebounds, run hard, wave a towel on the bench and not care that he’s only getting five minutes a game, he’s just stoked to be there (this should be the Derico Wigginton role… but he didn’t get any playing time and never showed real effort when he got out there).
  5. a minor league veteran.  He can also fill any of the other roles but we need a guy who can calm guys down, show younger guys the ropes, explain that Halifax is a good minor league town, resolve arguments and just be a good locker room guy.  Benoit sort of filled this role last year, but with Benoit behind the bench at MUN this year I’d like to see some older guy who has been slaving away on the minor league circuit playing in podunk towns for at least a way too many years fill out this role.  Last year there were a lot of internal problems ranging from players being upset about guys getting cut, to people complaining about playing time, and just the difficulties of having a bench of young guys living in house together in a foreign country.

#4 Fill the Roster out with “local guys” and Canadians

Assuming the 4 protected players all resign, and they pick up 2 players in the draft from D-1 schools and manage to somehow get their hands on a minor league veteran (lots of CBA teams folded last year) then you’re still looking at adding 2-4 players of whom only one or two will be rotation guys (I say this because I am 100% sure that Rick Lewis will have an actual eight man rotation this year instead of trying to play ten players every game in two lines… I mean he’s not a total moron, right?)  Of these 2-4 players I’d like to see at least one D-1 player from a legit program in the line up, in part to add legitimacy for casual fans (“Woah, they have a guy who played for North Carolina?”) and in part to ensure that someone who had top flight training is on the team.  It doesn’t need to be a starter from a top flight program, just someone who knows what they’re doing.

The other spots in the line up should be CIS and local players.  Derico Wigginton didn’t get much playing time, but he probably brought an extra 50 people to each game directly and indirectly led to tons of media.  Dennie Oliver, prior to quietly quiting the team, was a legit contributor and he had been out of the CIS and competetive ball for years and Charles Fortier on Quebec was dominant at times.  Top flight CIS players are definately capable of being excellent role players at this level and having Canadian guys is good for the media attention and name recognition, good for basketball in Canada, and since the season is so short it makes it more likely that a player will join the team than if they have to move to a foriegn country.  Why bother getting a barely decent player from the American south to keep the bench warm when you can get a grad from a CIS school in the region to fulfill the same role?

These are fairly broad ideas I’d like to see explored, but in the minor leagues there often isn’t really a flood of talented players with good attitudes looking to live in a place they’ve never heard of.  In addition, it doesn’t matter what the line up looks like unless Rick Lewis learns to coach.

That said, I feel like Halifax is behind the eightball when it comes to holding try out camps.  A lot of other minor league teams have had camps and started signing players, and most have at least announced tryout dates.  No word on any of that from the Rainmen.  Halifax is missing out on available talent.  Last year Halifax announced the signing of Benoit and Eichelberger on July 25th.  They had their first tryout camp in June and had open tryouts in Halifax in August.  The team was mostly set by October.  I get that the PBL season starts later but there is talk of playing 4 exhibition games in December – that means that we’re 60-70 days away from the first game of the new season.

I think they went overboard last year with bringing players from all over the place to NS, but I’d still like to see an open Halifax tryout just to see if they can find a diamond in the rough, but I’d also like to see tryout camps within the next month in the following locations:

  • Toronto – Let’s get some Canadian talent (Levingston also needs to get into the tryouts for the Idaho Stampede, the Raptor’s D-league affiliate, which are happening in Toronto.  Pick up their castaways before Will Voigt does)
  • New York – there is no stable minor league team there and loads of talent
  • California or the US south – tons of JuCo players from these regions never quite break into the NCAA, often for reason that have nothing to do with basketball.

Whatever the Rainmen do, they need to do it ASAP.  And Rick and Andre: Just so you know, I am available for consultation on the roster whenevever you need me.  I am also available to join the roster if you need a mindblowingly unathletic, 6′ small forward with a decent 12 foot jump shot.

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11 thoughts on “Thoughts on What the Roster Should Look Like

  1. 1. Okay, I agree on the center. We need a legit big guy who can rebound, post the odd guy up and alter shots. Just provide a presence on the court. That being said I want them to be able to run the court. I would like a guy with more athleticism than say Jon Clark provided. I sort of remember Wane when he was with the Millrats, not great scorer but he had a presence. Crookshank can play the big guys, but he shouldn’t have to.

    2. Yes to Silverhorn playing SG. No to Crookshank playing small forward. He just isn’t effective if he is moved too far from the basket, which we saw this year. His skill set really fits a power forward, he grabs boards and he has a great touch around the net. He should always be our primary rebounder, he is a beast. He would be extremely undersized in the NBA, but his athleticism should allow him to compete in lesser leagues like the NBADL. Joel Anthony plays center in the NBA and he is only 6’9. I know what you’re getting at, but Crookshank’s game just isn’t going to work if he is not playing as a big. I just can’t see him developing his jumper and his handle to play that game, his game is just not going to work at the 3. He would dominate PBL competition if he played as a PF with a big center. If he can compete with the game’s biggest players day in and day out, think of what he could do to someone who is at his height (opposing PFs). He should play the 4.

    3. Bench guys. I agree with you, and one guy that fits the bill is actually KD. I think he would be the ultimate bench guy, a guy that comes out, runs the floor, grabs a few boards and fires everyone up with some dunks and blocks. He is the ultimate team player and energy guy. Bring him on as the first big off the bench give him 20-30 minutes a game. He puts the team first and doesn’t sulk. He can definitely make a big impact. I want the Rainmen to have a plan when they build this team, a philosophy. The roster last year just felt random and thrown together.

    4. Yes. And I think the CIS guys could be more than “great role players”. I think if you get the right guy we could have a star. That would get people excited. Sign a local STAR, are there any out there?

    Sign some CBA guys, guys that have experience. The CBA seemed to be a step above the PBL and ABA in talent. I think that was an issue we had last year. The team that first took the floor had ZERO pro experience.

    I believe if the Rainmen put out a contender, they would see results in the stands. But they have to be willing to spend.

    And we still need that magical slashing guard (seriously though).

    Oh, and I sort of doubt the draft had many D1 guys trying out. The D1 guys are going to be recruited, I could see some D2 players that got passed by maybe trying out.

    Oh and one more thing. Jimmy Twyman formerly played for the Detroit Panthers, our new PBL rival.

  2. I just don’t know if we’re likely to find a centre who can do all those other things and still run the court at an above average level. I mean, they need more speed than James Tyler, but I don’t know how much more we can wish for. I think that putting Crookshank at centre when we want to go small is always an option.

    I think Eric was okay from the outside when he didn’t get the ball in the corner (teams started to trap him) and when he didn’t try to just back guys down. He can also back guys down from further out when he’s not being guarded by the other team’s centre. Eric is a shockingly good passer and he has a pretty good face up game. But the real difference is that in a real offense with motion, off ball screens, passing to guys cutting to the paint, etc. Eric wouldn’t need to rely on post ups to get his touches. He also is good, but not excellent at boxing out – he excels at rebounding by crashing hard to the boards, which is why he gets so many offensive boards. Plus, in a standard 2-3 zone or the 1-3-1 zone that Lewis used last year it doesn’t really matter defensively if he’s at the 3 or the 4.

    I agree re: D-1 guys. I doubt we’ll see any drafted in the PBL draft. From what I hear, I think that it’s unlikely that many guys of starter quality are going to be going in the draft, more likely role players and rotation guys. Going out and finding former Div-1 guys and CIS stars is going to require work. I don’t know if there are any AUS star level guys who graduated last year, I just don’t know CIS hoops very well. But I am sure that if the Rainmen don’t act fast any good CIS players interested in playing (semi?)pro ball will get snapped up.

    I do agree that a winning season with good players will definitely help at the gate, but I am not sure that it takes much more money to do it. Think about how much the Rainmen spent last year running camps, etc at the begining of the year. Then add the cost of all the roster changes – flying around scouting guys, paying for the flights home of dudes who get cut midseason, flying in new guys, etc. That adds up. If you build a team right in the first instance then you save money in the long run.
    The key is not just to spend money on getting good players but to spend money smart. And as we both mentioned before that requires having a general philosophy guiding the building of the team. Last year the philosophy seemed to be “let’s build a soft team of inexperienced underachievers who like to shoot long 2-pointers.”

  3. Good points about the roster!

    But I want to know when the tryouts will be! It seems really late to be having tryouts the Rainmen won’t know who is good and available unless they hold some camps to find out!

  4. Pingback: Halifax get Second Overall Pick in the PBL Draft « SECTION 23

  5. “We’re looking for a player who can help us win every night,” said Rainmen co-owner Andre Levingston. “Hopefully, we can land a big with it. The bigs are the hard ones to find.”

    Was there a standout big at the camp? I hope the Rainmen have agreements with whoever they draft and are sure they will report.

  6. For CIS players, bigs are super-rare. Most teams won’t have a player over 6’9″, and even those are usually generously measured. Dal had a legit 6’10” dude one year and Winnipeg had a *terrible* 7-footer, but that’s about it.
    What you get are guys who played “centre” really well, but aren’t any taller than Brian Silverhorn. Jeff Saxby for example played low post for Memorial and was awesome, but probably wasn’t taller than 6’7″.
    Then there’s the money issue. CIS athletes don’t drop out for the NBA draft, so most finish their degrees. If they’re good enough for pro, they play in Europe and make good money. If they’re not good enough, they get a real job and make better money than they can make in ABA-esque leagues. That was the issue with Saxby last year, apparently. He was getting paid more playing in Germany, so why play here for $7000?

  7. Pasty, thanks for filling me in on the CIS. You make some good points.

    However, I do believe that the Rainmen can give something to AUS players that other teams can’t, and that’s the opportunity to play pro basketball at home. Moving across the ocean isn’t a big deal for many players, the money might be worth it to them. But I truly believe there are certain players who still have a passion to play, they just don’t want to live in a foreign country away from family and friends. The Rainmen should target these players. For once they could use their location as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

  8. Njoku is currently Athletic Director at Atlantic Baptist university – I wonder if he could be lured away from that job for 4 months to suit up for the Rainmen? He last played in ’04, so I wonder if his body (and his back?) could hold up.

    I think the problem is that there are not a lot of CIS stars that come from NS. The main reason why a player would play in the PBL would be to play pro ball in or near their home town. Most of the best players in the AUS are from outside the region and return home after they finish their degrees. If you look at the guys Quebec and Montreal had, they were mostly native to QC or Montreal. Halifax just doesn’t have the same number of CIS veterans hanging out looking to play semi-pro.

    That said, I think there is talent to be found. I am just not sure it is star quality talent.

  9. Pingback: AUS Graduates: Who is Available? « SECTION 23

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