How did Halifax do on draft day?

There were a few tiny technical errors with the broadcast (mostly involving sound levels)  but overall what we saw broadcast last night was head and shoulders above anything else the minor leagues have done with a draft, and I included the NBA-DL in that category.

But how did the Rainmen actualy fare when it comes to using their three picks effectively?

Anyone who has followed the US minor league circuit knows that it’s still too early to make any firm judgements about players for one simple reason: between signing/being drafted and opening day there’s a good chance players will get bigger offers overseas, have passport problems, decide to pursue a more lucrative career doing something else, choose not to leave their families or decide not to report to the team for any variety of reasons. However, waiting until November to toss out opinions is no fun, so let’s talk draft grades:

Round 1 (6th overall pick) Grade: B

Danny Friend is an unknown property. Unheralded out of a small DII school (Limestone college) with no video online, no previous pro-experience but he seems like a sweet kid and his mom was with him and was absolutely stoked that her kid got drafted. From the video they showed on the broadcast he looks like he’s long with really good size and they don’t need a ton out of that position since they will at least have Crookshank there playing 28+ minutes a game. You can’t fault a team at this level for taking size and length but it is surprising that the team took a pass on Tristan Martin who was probably the Canadian with the biggest reputation in the draft and who fell to the Quebec Kebs at 8th overall.  I’d say this is a solid pick that may or may not pan out. At the very least it looks like they got a kid who wants to play for Halifax and who is a legit basketball player. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Round 2 (13th overall) Grade: A-

Papa Oppong! Mavs Gillis is going to lose his goddamn mind doing play-by-play everytime Big Papa shoots the basketball. Papa has swagger. Papa went to Eastern Commerce where Andre Levingston was once an assistant coach. Papa is a Canadian. Papa played DI ball for Eastern Kentucky where he knocked down 45% of his three point shots. Papa is going to make the team and give quality minutes as a shooting guard with decent size and a sweet stroke. Papa is young and is going to become a legit pro. I for one am stoked on the Papa Oppong era in Halifax.

Round 3 (20th overall) Grade: F

Dude isn’t even a Canadian? Wasted pick. Jerell Thompson is tabbed to play a backup role and he played DI ball, although it was in a weak conference (NEC). He’ll be in camp, but he could have been a camp invite without being drafted. Boooooo.

Overall grade: C

I really like the pick of Oppong. I don’t know much about Friend but the fact that he doesn’t jump out as being awful which is actually a plus. The third pick was a messy screw up. I just can’t get excited about a three round draft for Halifax when they only emerge with two players and only one canuck. They’re behind the rest of the league when it comes to finding a quality second Canadian and the team has generally struggled to sign top Canadian talent in the past. I’d expect the Rainmen to either pursue another Toronto guy with some connection to Andre or an AUS player like Simon Farine. In terms of needs I think Papa gives them a potential bench scorer and you can never have too many shooters, Friend has size and a good attitude on his side and they got one of two required Canadians. A solid “meh” draft deserves a solid C level grade.


So how do you think Halifax did? Would you have picked someone else instead? Did they mess up passing on Tristan Martin? Who are you hoping gets a camp invite?

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Five questions before the NBL draft

And after a 2 year hiatus Section23 is back. Short version is that I am moving back to Halifax in a couple of weeks and no one started a blog about the team in my absence. So here it goes: five questions I, and I am sure lots of other Rainmen fans, are asking themselves and each other in the lead up to tonight’s NBL draft. I haven’t re-built my base of contacts in Halifax yet so this is conjecture, semi-educated guesses and extrapolation.

#1 Is this draft for real?

Mercifully, Yes. If you didn’t follow the PBL you might wonder why anyone would even need to ask this question. The Premier Basketball League, the former home of the Rainmen, Millrats and Kebs, held two drafts which were nothing but a PR move (and a poorly executed one at that), with teams selecting players they had already signed prior to the draft and almost none coming out of the combines. Of course that would be annoying but not awful if it didn’t end up becoming clear that some other competitive elements of the league were equally staged.

The disappointment that Levingston, Bernier and McCarthy felt with the PBL draft are reflected in the rules they set out for this year’s NBL draft: players at the combine only, neutral team running the combine, no parachuted in players or guys already under contract, etc. As of now there’s reason to believe it will all be above board.

# 2 Does anyone outside of minor league nerd circles care about this draft?

Surprisingly I am going to say yes. The league and their interim PR director Jillian Blackman have done an insane job of getting local and national media attention for the draft. The broadcast crew is Sherman Hamilton, Paul Jones and Eric Smith – i.e. legit broadcasters with deep roots in the Canadian sports media. I expect all the media in local markets to pick it up and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see articles in the Post and the Globe. The real question is whether or not it will hit the highlight packages on the sports networks or garner a mention on CBC’s news loop – I won’t hazard a guess but I think that may largely be dependent on the quality of the broadcast and how slow a sports day it is.

#3 What’s the talent level in the draft?

A bit lower than I expected. I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of stars or even starters coming out of the draft. There will no doubt be a few diamonds in the rough from unheralded college programs who are going to impress, but there are very few recognizable minor leaguers on the combine list and more worrisome almost no big name CIS players. It’s the first year so I suspect lots of agents were waiting to see how the combine, draft and league fare in their first year so I’m not worried but it’s surprising to see so few names from the big CIS schools like UBC and Carlton and few players from the big NAIA programs that often produce high quality minor league players (to say nothing of the lack of players from major NCAA schools). There is a surprising amount of height in the draft though, and I would expect that the big men at Seneca got a good, hard look this weekend.

#4 Who will Halifax take with their three picks?

No idea. A new coach, a new league and a real, live draft make things a bit complicated to predict but we know a few things that can help narrow things down a bit:

– There are 3 players who played university ball in Halifax at the combine: STFX’s Will Silver and Charlie Spurr and Achuil Lual of Acadia.  Halifax has long looked for a local player who can actually play at this level swinging and missing wildly with high schooler turned bench warmer Derico Wigginton and then Dalhousie bench warmer turned Rainmen bench warmer Devon Norris so I would expect them to give all three players a serious look. Lual was in camp with Halifax last year but was cut by his former Acadia coach, Les Berry. Silver was part of a three headed beast of a backcourt at X over the last few years but I think the big question mark will be about his size and strength, but being the only Halifax native in the draft I would not at all be shocked to see him drafted in the third round. He’s definitely not a starting PG at this level, but he might be able to run the second unit.

– Andre likes to be involved in personnel decisions and he goes through some intense phases where he obsesses over a certain type of player (first it was slashing guards, then big and athletic wing players and then strong centres). I don’t know how he’s feeling this weekend, but rest assured that he will look to make some sort of splash with the draft and has always placed single skill players (i.e. deadly shooters like Silverhorn) and athletic players at the top of his list when it comes time to build a team.

– Halifax have five players under protection: Eric Crookshank (PF), Josh Dollard (SF/PF), Trayvon Lathan (SF/PG), Taliek Brown (PG) and DeAndre Thomas (PF/C) and that may play into their decision making but I don’t think it’s going to be the major factor. Crookshank looks like the only lock to stay in Halifax and if there is an elite big man available at any point when the Rainmen are on the clock I’d expect them to take the best available player, not pick by position.

#5 Will the rest of the teams know what they’re doing?

Definitely. Halifax do have an advantage in being an established franchise, but the Kebs and the Millrats are experienced, too. Moncton’s ownership are serious businessmen with serious basketball connections so I expect them to be well staffed. London have hired former NBA All-star and minor league coaching legend Michael Ray Richardson. I just don’t see Halifax facing off against a bunch of rubes tonight.

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