Levingston Working for the PBL to Expand League in Canada

The League sent out a press release today:

PBL Announces Halifax Rainmen Owner as Director of Business Development in Canada

July 29, 2009 – Premier Basketball League (PBL)

Chicago, IL…The Premier Basketball League announced today that President and CEO of the Halifax Rainmen, Andre Levingston has been appointed Director of Business Development for the league in Canada, effective immediately.
Levingston will head up the franchise expansion and team development north of the border. “Andre knows what it takes to get a team going in Canada, his experience and knowledge gained from the Rainmen’s success makes him a natural for this position,” said Tom Doyle CEO of the PBL. “Andre’s professionalism will lend well with growing our league through-out Canada.”

Plans to expand the league in Canada will become more active now that Levingston is heading up the effort.

“I’m extremely excited the league has appointed me to this position,” said Levingston. “This gives me the opportunity to assist in growing the PBL brand in Canada while giving other cities an opportunity to have professional basketball. This also gives our college athletes the opportunity to further develop their skills after college,” added Levingston.

I am curious about whether Andre or the Rainmen will receive any financial compensation for the owner’s time, but more to the point, I think it’s a good sign that the PBL is redoubling efforts to find new franchises in Canada.  Hopefully my long standing claim that an ownership group in Moncton needs to be found for the well being of the Rainmen has not fallen on deaf ears.

Levingston is a natural salesman and his experience putting a team together from scratch makes him the ideal candidate for this kind of position, but I have to wonder how many legitimate markets there really are for minor league hoops in Canada.

  • Moncton – ideal for travel reasons, an event city, but not even close to being a basketball hotbed.
  • Montreal – dead market.  Too many failures have just wrecked that market.
  • Ottawa/Hull – Big population, popular university programs but dates for sporting events are tough to get due to the use of those spaces for conferences and the like.  The city has been pursuing a second professional team for the last few years, but they may not view the PBL as big enough for them.
  • Toronto – not buying minor league anything.
  • Burlington? Mississauga? Hamilton?  Potential markets, I suppose.
  • Winnipeg? Flights only and well outside the footprint, but who knows what US teams will appear in the west in the coming years?  There’s already rumours of a team in Vegas.
  • Saskatoon?  Regina?  There have been minor league hoops teams in Sasketchewan before, but I just don’t know enough about the place to make a call on it.
  • Calgary?  Edmonton?  Edmonton have an IBL team, but they’ve drawn about 300 a game for the last two years despite getting an impressive amount of media attention.  Who knows if winter sports will do better?  I feel like you’d need both Calgary and Edmonton on board to make any of the traveling work.
  • Vancouver?  Victoria?  Burnaby/Richmond/Coquitlim?  I can’t see the math working on flying into Vancouver for anyone unless a few teams on the pacific are added.

So as it stands I’d have to say that a Toronto suburb, Moncton and Ottawa are probably the best targets, but even then I think we’re three or more years away from seeing any real movement on this.

Levingston Raiding the CBA, Strick Looking for Front Office Gig and a Reminder to Tryout for to Play at the Metro Centre

Lots to update, thanks for the most part to Mathew Wuest and the Halifax Metro.

First off:  Remember when the team was being announced last year and everyone on this blog was saying “this team needs role players”?  Yeah… well Levingston agrees now. He’s saying that he wants to go find three or four dominant guys and surround them with role players.

After the season, Levingston was talking about bringing back Jimmy Twyman, Eric Crookshank, Michael Anderson and Tony Bennett.  He mentions that he wants to bring back Eric and the Voice – Bennett is a question of money, and I think I would bet a limb on Eric’s return.  Twyman is mentioned as only being viable as a back up, which I think is a good call.  Anderson isn’t even mentioned and it’s implied that the team are looking for a new starting small forward.

I am not convinced you win the PBL championship of Eric Crookshank is your first or second offensive option.  His athleticism isn’t as dominant as it was in the ABA and his post up and mid-range games are just way too inconsistent to lean on down the stretch.  However, I do think you win the PBL championship if Eric is scoring off put backs, deflecting passes and rebounding.  I think he needs to look to re-invent himself as an energy guy who creates total chaos on defense and crashes for offensive boards.  I think Bennett is a fantastic starting shooting guard, but he needs to have a small forward and point guard who can actually shoot the ball to make up for his low percentage from deep.

Levingston drops some names on the new players he’s pursuing and for the most part they are former CBA guys.  With the collapse of the Continental Basketball League there are a lot quality minor league players out there.  Some of them certainly mid-level European talent (i.e. German League type guys) but have chosen to stay in North America for various reasons.  Unfortunately, some of the minor league talent out there choose to stay in the US due to passport issues and those players won’t be heading North to play for the Rainmen.  Some of the names mentioned in the article include:

  • PG Jason McLeish, a NYC native who had a strong D1 career at Eastern Kentucky.  Definitely a legit starting PG.
  • Trayvon Lathan, a 6’6″ shooting guard who played D3 ball and is currently playing for the Los Angeles Lightening in the IBL (a team that features a crazy assortment of washed up NBA guys).  I have a hard time seeing him as anything other than a back up wing player.
  • DeAndre Thomas, a 6″8 big man… who could be a massive coup if it is who I think it is.  The only detail we get on him is that he’s friends with Bennett and is 6’8″, but a 6’8″ DeAndre Thomas played for the Indiana Hoosiers for a year before leaving the team in 2008 as part of absolute clusterfuck that was Hoosiers basketball.  He then suited up for Robert Morris (College, not U) in the NAIA.  The guy is massive – he was 285 -300 lb when he left Indiana.  He didn’t exactly light the NCAA up, but “Big Dre” has the sort of size that the Rainmen were looking for all year, but fitness is obviously a major concern.
  • Galen Young, a 6’7″ minor league veteran.  Back in the late 90s he played for UNC-Charlotte and was a 2nd round pick by the Milwaukee Bucks.  He was cut before the season started and has played in various overseas leagues and the CBA ever since.  He was CBA player of the year in 2007 and would bring experience, leadership and versatility to the team.  In his prime he was a triple double machine but he’s exactly ten years older than me and will be 34 by the time training camp starts.

Of course, none of these guys are actually signed and there’s no indication that they’re interested in joining the Rainmen, but it’s nice to know that the team has already started looking seriously at players.

The second article in the Metro is about Strick.  Appearently he’s lost weight and is trying to get into shape for next season.  He’s another guy who age is catching up to him, but he plays a game that exploits his veteran experience and compensates for his lack of athleticism.  If he does return, Levingston says, it will be in a reserve role.  What’s more interesting is that he’s helping the Rainmen out by serving as an informal scout and helping the Rainmen staff find talent in NYC, and it sounds like he’s gunning for a spot in the front office of the Rainmen.  I am not convinced that the Rainmen need a dedicated GM, but I’d like to see them bring Strick in as an assistant coach and player for this season and give him some additional scouting responsibilities.  I think he could learn a lot from Berry and he’s respected by players.  Every Rainman I’ve talked to has said that he is the smartest player they’ve ever played with and if he was willing to accept an assistant/scouting role then I think you’ve got to give him a go on that.
Finally, just a reminder:  The Rainmen are playing host to a streetball tour called 94Inc in early August.  Basically, it’s a team of former And1 guys who figured they can do this themselves without a big company exploiting their labour.  Obviously I back this.  If anyone is interested in playing against them, there will be an open run on August 8th to try out for the local opposition.  Keep an eye on the Rainmen’s website for details.  Hopefully we’ll see Eric somehow be involved in this – I doubt we’ll see him play, but it would be cool to have him coach.

Rainmen Scouting Players, Hosting Streetball Game

Two bits of fairly minor news:

First, Les Berry and Andre Levingston are in San Francisco and NYC scouting pro-am leagues for talent.  The San Francisco pro-am league is one of the better summer leagues where you might find unsigned talent, and NYC is obviously home to a ton of very gifted basketball players.  Levingston identifies the need for a legit centre and a legit point guard as priorities.  It’s nice to know that the scouting is underway and that the organization sees the same flaws as most intelligent fans do.  Scoring wing players and athletic power forwards are a dime a dozen in the minors but guys who are true floor generals or physical beasts in the paint are not so easy to find.

Second, the Rainmen will be hosting an AND1 knock off tour on August 9th at the Metro centre.  There’s an open run the day of the game to determine who will play against the likes of “Baby Shaq” and “8th Wonder.”  Tickets for the event are pretty darn cheap: $17 on the floor, $11 in the lower bowl.  No word on if we’ll see any past or future Rainmen playing in the game.  I’m not sure if I will be buying tickets for this or not.

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