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.