I hope everyone had a good Christmas and other holidays, I’m full of turkey right now, but I figured I’d throw some thoughts out there before tomorrow’s game. After months of anticipation, guessing and criticizing we finally get to see the team in action. I was actually more excited about these four games than about Christmas – how sad is that?
Generally there’s a few things I’ll be looking at in these four games – and the score line isn’t really on the top of that list. The organization obviously didn’t want to bring in teams that it will be playing during the regular season, but that led to a problem – of Halifax’s six regular season opponents, five of them are in the top two thirds of the league (there are 13 teams in the PBL). So of the top nine teams in the league six either are Halifax, or are team Halifax will be playing Wilmington and Rochester would have provided major challenges to Halifax but virtually all the other possible pre-season opponents would have been bottom feeders. Augusta and Chicago certainly are. Chicago finished last in the PBL last year at 5-15, and Augusta (then known as the Atlanta Krunk) finished an astounding 9-41 in the CBA last year. All of that is to say that Halifax should beat both teams, although the last two games could be harder when Halifax are exhausted from 4 games in 4 days while their opponents have days off. The pre-season is also a crap-shoot so I won’t take a blow out win or a close loss as portending to some sort of regular season success or failure, I also think that under close examination Augusta are not a terrible team.
With all that said I think we will learn a lot from these games including who Lewis plans on playing at two guard, which front court players work well together, what sort of tempo the team will play at, what sort of defensive looks the team will be using, if the offense has more than just one lame pick and roll, and just as importantly I think it’s worth paying attention to the body language on the bench. As has been talked about a lot, there are a lot of players used to being the go to guy on this team, let’s see how players adjust to reduced minutes and fewer shots.
There are nine pre-season games featuring nine PBL teams happening in the four days after Christmas, so we can expect to have at least a vague idea of where teams stack up after this week, so it’s a pretty exciting time for minor league basketball fans.
As for the game itself I would expect Halifax win. They have a pre-season game under their bet and are playing at home instead of getting in the evening of Christmas day and suiting up the next afternoon. I do think that Augusta are the better of the two teams and they will provide a few neat challenges, particularly in the front court. If either team will have a shot at beating Halifax it will be Augusta, and I do expect them to at least keep it respectable.
Expect AJ Millien to be their go to scorer. A 6’7 streetballer from Brooklyn, he averaged 22/6 last year in the CBA playing powerforward for the Groove who were at the time known as the Atlanta Krunk. He played his college ball at Idaho State (NCAA D1) where he put up an impressive 15.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg in his 05/06 senior year, He’s an athletic scorer and loves to dunk and Augusta are hyping him up as their go to guy. I wouldn’t expect to see him taking many deep shots – he took exactly zero three point attempts in his senior year of college. It will be interesting to see how Eric, Sanders and Bailey contain him, but his athleticism should be neutralised by our front line’s freakish quickness and jumping ability. Augusta’s strength will be in it’s forward spots with Millien, Calvin Roland (6’10 centre from Virginia Union) and Kenneth Curtis a 6’8 centre/powerforward who played D1 ball at North Carolina Central provide a legitimate challenge to Halifax’s bigs.
Their back court is small with shooting guards who are 6’4 and 6’2, so we will see how Dandridge and Mayes line up against smaller, presumably quicker two-guards. Demetrius Howard, a 6’5 Augusta State grad played SG in college but is likely to see most of his time as small forward. He’s a well rounded player with a good outside shot and he’ll probably be their main offensive threat on the wing. Shooting guard Kenny Thomas is a reliable outside shooter so watch for him if the Rainmen try to double-team one of the post players.
All-in-all I am exctied as hell for this game, and although Halifax are certainly the favourites, in any basketball game either team can win. Augusta have a strong front three in Roland-Millien-Howard and if Halifax underestimate them or lose focus on defense and on the boards there could be trouble.
I don’t know if there will be programs available at the games (and if there are if they’ll be less that $2), but I used info online to format a simple list of players from all three teams playing in Halifax in an easily printable form and I figured I’d make it available here as a PDF to download and print off if anyone is interested: Downloadable preseason-rosters.