I meant to get this up sooner, but I ended up actually having a real life. The season kicks off tonight and we should have the result of the first Rainmen away game in about an hour when their game in Quebec raps up. So here it is, my way too in-depth preview of the 2009 Halifax Rainmen season. This guide should provide an explanation of virtually everything you need to know about the Halifax Rainmen, from who the players are, to what other teams look like, to where you can find free parking in the area. It’s so long that here is a table of contents.
- The Players – A detailed guide to every player on the roster, including video of many of them.
- The Team – A explanation of how this team should work on the court.
- The League – What you need to know about the PBL including some of the rules, the divisional structure and who the favourites are.
- The Opposition – Who the Rainmen will play and what you need to know about them.
- What New Fans Need to Know – A guide to going to the Rainmen games for out of towners and people interested in checking the team out for the first time. What to expect, where to sit, where to park, where to eat.
Check them out after the jump.
1. The Players
Halifax currently have 12 players on their roster, only three of whom played for the Rainmen last year. The new players are a good mix of accomplished college guys and minor league vets. Here’s a brief description of each player on the roster:
David “Super Dave”/”The Aggressor” Bailey
6’8 Power Forward
College: Prince George’s Community College (Juco)
Previous Pro Experience: Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs (USBL), And1 Mixtape Tour, Maryland Night Hawks (ABA and PBL)
What He Brings to the Table: A player with a fair amount of minor league experience, Bailey averaged 10.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg last year in the PBL, he’s a hard working banger who gets his points off of put backs and being in the right place and the right time; you don’t need to run plays for him. He’s an athletic bruiser who is surprisingly fast and gets up quickly for rebounds. Is supposedly a very coachable player and a good character guy who has shown steady improvement over the last few years.
What He Needs to Work On: I like everything I know about him, to be honest. He’s not going to be a star, he’s not going to knock down threes but he is going to do the dirty work. He is a great rebounder but hasn’t show evidence or protecting the rim particularly well in the minor leagues. With KD no longer in the picture we will need someone to alter shots and block on the weak side, hopefully Bailey can add that facet to his game. He certainly has the athleticism to be a great help defender.
What His Role Should Be: Grabbing boards, scoring in transition and off of put backs and, along with Sanders, adding some intensity and physicality to a team which lacked both last year. He’s here to be the energy guy. He needs to be prepared to see some minutes at centre. He’s Halifax best big man when it comes to man to man defense.
SirValiant “Val” Brown
6’ Point Guard/Shooting Guard
College: George Washington (NCAA D1)
Previous Pro Experience: a whole lot. He’s played for at least 17 teams since leaving GW after his sophmore year in 2001 including stops in all the American minor leagues, Cyprus, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Iceland.
What He Brings to the Table: Scoring prowess, name recognition, and lots of experience. He averaged 24.6ppg in his freshmen year where he was 0.1 ppg away from being the first freshmen to ever lead the NCAA in scoring. He left school early, expecting to be drafted and has bounced around the minor leagues ever since.
What He Needs to Work On: Shot selection, staying healthy, and leadership. In college he was nicknamed “SirShootsAlot” by GW fans due to his willingness to just jack it up and he has had his fair share of off-court and on-court problems. If he concentrates on what he’s good at and is willing to defer to other players at the right times then he can potentially dominate games.
What his Role Should Be: Major scoring punch off of the bench. He can play either guard spot and can score in bunches if he heats up. He needs to look to create for other players and take shots in rhythm rather than forcing his shot.
Eric “Air Canada” Crookshank
6’6 Power Forward
College: California State University, Dominguez Hills (NCAA Div. II)
Previous Pro Experience: Tri Valley (IBL), Halifax Rainmen
What He Brings to the Table: Considered by many to be one of the best players in the minor leagues last year, he averaged 20/12 last year. A gifted athlete with incredible jumping ability and a positive attitude. Has a good back to the basket game with a limited but effective arsenal of post moves. One of the best offensive rebounders I’ve ever seen, he scores 2-3 put back dunks per game. Has the potential to be a very good defender with quick hands and length which let him clog up passing lanes as well as the athleticism to block shots from the weakside. An under-rated pass who averaged three assists a game last season, he’s the kind of player you can run your offense through, particularly late in the game.
What He Needs to Work On: Free throw shooting. Eric’s free throw shooting is always going to keep him from making the leap to the next level – he shot under 40% and still scored over 20ppg last year. He also needs to work on his long and midrange game. He can beat some bigger opponents off the dribble but good defenders can keep him from getting to the hoop. Without a player who is there specifically to protect the rim he will need to contribute more on help defense. His decision making on the fast break also needs to improve (i.e. he should not dribble and just look to get the early outlet pass to a guard). Could see some improvement on establishing deep post position before he gets the ball.
What his Role Should Be: Halifax’s guards should look for Eric early in the shot clock as he’s the team’s best low post threat. He has the skills and reputation to command a double team and the passing ability to exploit it and kick the ball out if he doesn’t have a good shot. He won’t get as many shots as he did last year so he is going to have to contribute in other ways: getting his long arms in the passing lanes, put back dunks and solid defensive rebounding and quick outlet passes.
Glen “Freckle Power” Dandridge
6’6 Shooting Guard/Small Forward
College: Missouri (NCAA D1), Lambuth (NAIA)
Previous Pro Experience: None. He graduated in may.
What He Brings to the Table: Outside shooting. Period. He’s got NBA range and the height and length to shoot over opposing player, particularly shooting guards. He also has the size and athleticism to get to the hoop and rebound very well.
What He Needs to Work On: He played small forward in college and it shows from time to time. He has a good handle but occasionally makes poor decisions and lacks above average passing skills, he also lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of some guards. His defense in general leaves a lot to be desired. He’s here to score, but he really needs to work on keeping his man in front of him on the perimeter.
What His Role Should Be: He’s here to stretch the offense and score. He’ll likely start at shooting guard and spend some time at small forward when the team goes small. The less he has the ball in his hands the better – he’s better suited to coming off of screens and hitting catch and shoot jumpers or passes off of cuts to the lane.
6’1 Point Guard
College: Citadel (NCAA D1)
Previous Pro Experience: None. He’s straight out of military school.
What He brings to the Table: He’s an experienced floor general having spent five seasons at Citadel (was medically red shirted in his fourth year) where he played some of his games against legitimately good and recognizable teams like Georgetown, Davidson and Maryland. Which means he has matched up against players like Stephan Curry and Steve Blake. He’s a good outside shooter with a spectacular handle who runs the fast break well. He’s an outstanding defender in the full court, a good decision maker and a player who can take over the game for stretches.
What He Needs to Work On: He’s going to be expected to drive to the hoop often as Halifax doesn’t have a lot of slashers on the wings. He was expected to carry the scoring load in college and he won’t see the same pressure on the Rainmen so he has to concentrate on his ball distribution.
What His Role Should Be: He’ll likely be the starter at the point. He will be expected to leak out early to start the fast break, slow down opposing PGs, and set the team’s half court offense up. This is a team loaded with scorers, so most of his points will have to come in transition and from getting open shots as a result of ball rotation and double teams – he’s not going to be calling his own number a lot. He is going to have to take on a leadership role – there are tons of guys used to getting shots, and some very volatile personalities on this team. His ability to create turn overs will help the team get out on the fast break.
6’5 Small Forward/Power Forward/Shooting Guard
College: John A. Logan Community College (JuCo) (Signed a letter of intent to play for D2 Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville but never suited up)
Previous Pro Experience: Montreal Royal, Quebec Kebs (ABA)
What He Brings to the Table: A two time ABA all-star who averaged 22 ppg last year. He likes to mix it and gets a lot of second chance/hussle points and he can score in a variety of ways. A good athlete with some solid experience, he rebounds incredibly well for his size. Has the ability to get to the line almost at will. He can legitimately play three positions and this is probably his biggest strength.
What He Needs to Work On: His small man skills – the guy will see almost no time at PF and will be forced to get some of his minutes play the off-guard spot despite being a natural small forward so his ability to handle the ball, make decisions on the fast break, guard smaller perimeter guys and in particular shoot from the outside needs to improve. He will get open looks on the outside and he needs to knock them down consistently.
What His Role Should Be: He should be one of the first guy off the bench. He can give you energy and scoring and let’s you play big or small. He can turn a game around if used properly. He is also good at creating mismatches since he’s too fast for bigger forwards to guard and he can back down smaller players. Without a proven slashing wing player it will be up to him and Sanders to get to the line consistently.
6’5 Shooting Guard/Small Forward
College: West Virginia Tech (NCAA D2)
Previous Pro Experience: Decatur Court Kings (WBA), Académica de Coimbra (Portuguese 2nd Division), Cartersville Baseline Warriors (WBA)
What He Brings to the Table: Freakish athleticism. Mayes has an incredible first step and spectacular leaping ability. He’s a primarily a scorer who likes to get to the hoop. He plays above the rim and rebounds extremely well on both ends of the floor.
What He Needs to Work On: He’s spent most of his career as a small forward so he needs to work on his ball handling and passing, and particularly his defense. He’s going to start games defending some very talented offensive wing players and Halifax will expect him to shut them down, or at least slow them down substantially. His outside shot is inconsistent and he looks scared to be on the court at times.
What His Role Should Be: He’s supposed to be the designated slasher on the team but did not show it in the pre-season. He’s going be expected to create his own shots and take it hard to rim in the half court and on the fast break. He’s probably close to getting cut and if he wants to stay on the roster he will need to show that he can defend elite scorers on the opposite team.
College: Miami-Dade Community College (JuCo). Signed with NCAA1 University of North Carolina – Wilmington but failed to meet academic requirements.
Previous Professional Experience: None.
What He Brings to the Table: Size. A back to the basket game, a good midrange game and some raw potential.
What He Needs to Work On: Staying healthy. McNeal is young. He’s going to have to get used to playing against more experienced big men but he undoubtedly has tons of potential and the size and skills to contribute now. Offensive rebounding and blocking shots off the ball/help defense. Basically every facet of his game needs
What is Role Is: Will likely be the back up centre, he just needs to refine his game and provide some size off the bench. He can’t come into the game timid – he needs to look to knock people around and get his hands on the ball. He’s here primarily for defense since there are at least three other big men who are elite scorers on this team. His major task will be guarding opposing bigs, but expect him to be able to knock down the open jumpers if Halifax’s power forwards get double teamed.
6’7 Power Forward/Small Forward
College: Providence (NCAA Div. 1)
Previous Pro Experience: Cape Cod Frenzy, Manchester Millrats (ABA), a stint in the Philippines
What He Brings to the Table: 3 years of NCAA experience including a trip to the big show and three years in the minors make him an experienced player for his age. He is incredibly athletically gifted with a 40” vertical and good speed and quickness for a player his size. Solid mid-range game and a willingness to get to the rim combined with intensity and a bit of a mean streak make him a player who could make the leap to a top European league. He is strong enough to consistently finish after contact and gets to the charity stripe at will. He has a mean streak and does all the things you want a player to do: sets hard screens, makes exclamation point plays, grabs loose balls and fouls hard. The short version: great athlete who can score in multiple ways and does the dirty work. He averaged 17/7 last year for Manchester in the ABA.
What He Needs to Work On: Consistency, particularly with his rebounding and his outside shot. Both seem to just disappear in some games. If he can add a consistent three point shot to his arsenal then he will be impossible to guard. He has all the tools to make the jump to the next level, hopefully he can put them all together.
What His Role Should Be: A top three scoring option who can exploit mis-matches and get to the line. He will also help give a toughness and grit that Halifax lacked last year. He may see some time defending opposing centres.
Brian “The Kentucky Sharpshooter” Silverhorn
6’6 Small Forward/Shooting Guard
College: George Town College (KY) (NAIA – First team all American)
Previous Pro Experience: Halifax Rainmen
What He Brings to the Table: Lights out shooting. He’s deadly from anywhere on the court with legit NBA range. A potential European league player, he has added lots of ways to score other than the long ball. He has great size for a shooter and an NBA body.
What He Needs to Work On: Foot speed and defending smaller, quicker players, particularly if he sees time at the off guard spot.
What His Role Should Be: I’d like to see a variety of plays run for him and I think that with his size he has the potential to score off of post ups and basket cuts in addition to the catch and shoot and spot up threes he got last year. Basically, he’s here to put the ball in the net and stretch the floor for the big men. Along with Dandridge he provides a deadly 1-2 punch on the perimeter.
6’1 Point Guard/Shooting Guard
College: University of Detroit – Mercy (NCAA Div. 1)
Previous Pro Experience: Detroit Panthers (ABA), Harlem Globetrotters, Halifax Rainmen
What he Brings to the Table: He’s solid player in every facet of his game. Not a big turn over machine, he has an excellent handle and is a solid passer. He lacks the lightening speed of some smaller guards in the minors but he’s an excellent shooter from deep.
What He Needs to Work On: He seemed too tentative last year and often refused to assert himself. He needs to take more responsibility and a try to be more active on offense. With more familiarity with the team and better chemistry this shouldn’t be a problem.
What his role should be: He’ll play back up point guard. Protect the ball, get the team out quickly on the break and knock down jump shots. His shooting will help space the floor for our bigs.
6’3 Point Guard/Shooting Guard
College: Benedictine University (NCAA DIII)
Previous Pro Experience: Rockford Fury (PBL)
What He Brings to the Table: Insane range, lots of confidence, a solid handle and good defense. He’s a complete guard who can contribute on both ends of the court.
What He Needs to Work On: A last minute addition to the team, Ramey needs to learn the system and fit in with his teammates. He also will have a reduced role on the team. Like Mayes, his best chance of getting minutes is to become the lockdown wing defender that Halifax so desperately need.
What His Role Should Be: Back up shooting guard who will see minutes at point when injuries kick in. His deep shooting skills contribute to Halifax’s embrassment of riches from beyond the arc. He needs to take good shots and look to pass early in the shot clock.
2. The Team
Expect the Rainmen to play an uptempo game with lots of scoring and not a whole lot of defense. The team lacks a legitimate starting centre but is gifted with incredibly depth at the two forward spots. Rick Lewis is a very trainer but has consistently shown questionable Xs and Os prowess in his time with the organization. Expect Crookshank and Sanders to use their passing skills to pass out of double teams and give Dandridge, Sanders and Ramey lots of open looks. The team will likely rely on different players to carry the scoring load at different times. The team is athletic and experienced, and is capable of beating any team in the PBL if they execute properly. They went 3-2 in the preseason despite injuries and looked good even in their losses.
The offense is simple: a motion offense with the first look inside to Crookshank, Sanders or Jeanty. Silverhorn, Dandridge, et al. provide deep threats if the double team comes.
The defense is also simple: No gimmick presses or box and 1s, just straight man or simple zones.
My expectations for the team are also simple: I want the team to win 14-15 games, anything less than 12 wins has to be considered a disapointment based on the talent on the roster.
3. The League
The PBL is a 13 team circuit broken up into 3 divisions (Atlantic, East and Central). Most of the teams are defectors from the troubled ABA, including Halifax and 3 of its divisional rivals (Manchester, Vermont, Quebec). It’s a stable organization with teams almost certain to complete the season without folding, which unfortunately is the rather low measuring stick in minor league hoops. The league says it will be broadcasting some games, but no schedule has been released.
Rochester are the defending champions and are favourites to repeat with Manchester, Wilmington, Vermont and Halifax all in the mix. Teams like Quebec, Battle Creek, Buffalo and Augusta should all be looking to move into that pool of contenders as well. Each team plays a 20 game regular season schedule (10 home, 10 away) with a play off format which has not yet been announced.
The league does not have the same number of gimics in its rules as the ABA but there are a few variations from what you might be used to from the NBA, CIS or NCAA. Highlights include: If a player recieves a sixth foul he does not foul out but if he commits another foul the other team gets one shot plus posession, the ball can be interfered with above the cylinder if it first strikes the rim, no time outs while in mid-air.
4. The Opponents
Halifax fans will see each of the Rainmen’s divisional rivals twice at the MetroCentre with Halifax playing two games in each of their opponents arena’s as well. Buffalo and Detroit will be flying in as non-divisional opponents once each during the season. Halifax are in what will likely be the toughest division in the PBL and we can expect to see a lot of close, fun games. Six different teams will travel to Halifax to play regular season games in 2009.
Manchester Millrats: a tough, well balanced team with high quality players at every position. They’re likely to be Halifax’s toughest opponent and play a physical, tough defensive game.
Vermont Frost Heaves: The two-time ABA champions have totally overhauled their roster and are undersized with only one player over 6’7 and no centre on their roster. They’re probably the best coached team in the PBL with Will Voigt on the bench. Their lack of size and athleticism means they’re going to rely on trick defenses and three point shooting to win games. They have a pretty tremendous home-court advantage and remind me of a college team in a lot of ways (very disciplined, lots of set plays, outside shooting and pressure defenses), and their discpline, coaching and home crowd should make them competetive against every opponent.
Quebec Kebs: A balanced team led by a pair of shooting guards in Larry House and the gritty Charles Fortier. Halifax need to win all four games against Quebec if they hope to make a run against Vermont and Manchester in the league standings.
Montreal Sasquatch: The insanely undersized poor cousins of the Atlantic Division, Montreal are well behind the rest of the division. They have just one player over 6’6 under contract and he’s the 6’9 310 (!!!) pound Xavier Morton who will have a hard time keeping up with a team loaded with guards. Expect them to try to run. I imagine that their games against Halifax will be very high scoring affairs, and they will at least have a shooter’s chance to pull out a win.
Buffalo Stampede: A solid opponent that I don’t know much about, Halifax play them at home 21 hours after tipping off for an away game in Detroit. This will be a tough, tiring game for Halifax.
Detroit Panthers: Likely to be one of the PBL’s bottom feeders they’re unlikely to offer much resistance to Halifax.
5. What New Fans Need to Know
The PBL, along with the CBA, represent a full two steps below the NBA. The D-League is the premier North American minor league, with most of the top talent outside of the NBA located in the big European clubs. If the players in the D-League are a year or two removed from the NBA then the very best talent in the PBL is at best three or four years away from having a shot at the Association. Even the best PBL talent is unlikely to make the NBA and the real goal for these players is to make it onto the roster of a top European club. Last year the Rainmen played in the ABA, which at this point is the bottom rung of the minor league ladder.
Despite not being a direct stepping stone into the NBA the Rainmen offer a chance to see the best basketball players you may ever get to watch in Halifax. A lot of players are the products of very good NCAA schools, and many are athletes who were simply a few inches or jump shot away from playing for NCAA powerhouses. The basketball is fast paced, fun and passionate.
The team averaged about 1800 fans last year at the 10,000 seat MetroCentre and I’d expect to see that number climb a bit to the 2500 person range at least. The crowd is loud and the chants are pretty standard: “Lets Go Rainmen *clap**clap**clapclapclap*” and “Defense *clap*clap*clap*”. Heckling is encouraged if you’re in close but be respectful to other fans, particularly kids and avoid swearing.
Games generally start about five minutes after listed tip off time with long intros involving a light show. There’s a mascot, dance team and on court games with fans during time outs and half. There’s also a live DJ (RS Smooth) and the production values are at a major league level.
When buying tickets don’t bother investing in floor seats unless you desperately want them: the good lower bowl seats have fantastic views. The baseline seats are horrible so don’t even consider investing in them. The seating plan can be seen here and the best sections are
- Best: 22, 8
- Also great: 21, 23
- Good: 9, 7
- Passable: 20, 24, 6, 10
You can generally always find available seats in those sections if you ask before game day.
Parking is available at the Scotia Square parking lot off Market Street for $10. If you don’t want to pay then you can almost always find free parking below Barrington Street on Granville and Hollis. It’s a bit of a walk, but I am cheap.
Food in the MetroCentre is a big pricey like all arena’s. They are licensed and serve beer which you can drink in your seat. There is also a Subway sandwhich place in the arena. If you’re looking to eat before the game Halifax has a ton of options in the downtown. If you want pizza, donairs and Greek food Island Greek is on Gottingen Street about 15 minutes by foot (3 or 4 by car) from the arena and offers huge amounts of cheap, good food to take out. If you’re looking to sit down then Star Anise on Barrington offers cheap Vietnamese food, Freeman’s is on Argyl street 30 seconds from the entrance to the arena and offers overpriced pizza, deep fried stuff, pastas, etc. If you’re willing to travel a bit further you can walk 15 minutes to Tom’s Little Havanah, my favourite bar in the city for a good menu and nice atmosphere, or you can drive south to hit the jackpot with Morris East (Barrington and Morris) offering the best pizza in Atlantic Canada, but it will cost you; Herny House Pub for great pub food (Barrington and South) and Shiraz (Hollis near South) providing Persian food. Coffee is easily gettable with a Just Us and Tim Hortons located on Barrington Street, and the Holy Grail of Halifax coffee, Steve O Reno’s, within walking distance on Brunswick. Basically: I like food, and if you do as well you can find lots of good dining options near the Arena.