Times & Transcript botch a fluff article

The Times & Transcript,  Moncton’s daily newspaper (circulation of around 40k) recently published this article on the awesomely named Jazzmar Ferguson. It’s a pretty standard fluff piece giving some background on a new signing, but boy-howdy did the reporter fail to do even the most basic research and chose to just try to hype up Jazzmar. The poor research surfaces in this paragraph:

Ferguson helped Indiana University Southeast capture the conference title and advance to the March Madness national championship tournament in each of his four seasons there. This tournament, which expanded from 64 to 68 teams in 2011, is one of America’s highest profile sporting events.

During his time there, his school lost in the first round of the tournament twice, advanced to the final 16 teams once and made it to the final eight survivors once.

Ferguson, 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in three-point shots made per game last season. Now, he’s is ready for a new adventure.

So what’s wrong here? The obvious problem is that March Madness is the name of the 68 team NCAA Division 1 championship tournament, and as the author accidentally points out IU-Southeast plays in the NAIA, not any division of the NCAA. It might seem like splitting hairs but while division 1 of the NCAA is inarguably the premier amateur basketball circuit  in the league in terms of both talent and exposure and March Madness is one of the most watched sporting tournaments in North America the NAIA is not nearly as competitive nor as popular.

The NAIA’s first division is a strange mix players but is generally about on par with the NCAA second division. No one watches their championship tournament unless they know someone playing in it or go to a small mid-western college participating in it. It is definitely not “one of America’s highest profile sporting events.” The NAIA tournament is also only a 32 team tournament, not a 68 team one. So pointing out that Ferguson helped IU-Southeast advance to the final 16 is a lot less impressive when you realize that they won just one tournament game to get there.  I get that it’s “just basketball” but it’s also sloppy reporting, particularly in an age where these things are just a google search away. Fans expect and deserve accurate reporting and I almost don’t blame the author: he likely had too many other stories to write and is not a basketball writer. I blame a chain of newspapers owned by the the family of New Brunswick Robber Barons who have broke unions, shipped personal wealth over seas, intimidated reporters at other papers and basically bought up the entire province. If simple mistakes like this are being made in the sports section how much can you trust the paper to critically report on the hard news in Moncton, particularly those involving their basses?

Jazzmar Ferguson might be a great player (there have been some good NAIA players in the minors) but the profile of him in today’s Times & Transcript doesn’t accurately describe his achievements, and that’s dishonest, lazy and unfair to Ferguson, The Miracles and their fans.

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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