(WINDSOR, ON) – Last weekend, for the 8th time since it’s infancy as a professional basketball league, the NBL Canada held it’s combine for the 2nd straight year in the spacious St Clair Sportsplex. With the Windsor Express serving as host, by all corporate and personal accounts, the 2-day event was a superbly planned and executed event.
Of the 130 eligible draft players who registered for Saturday, 43 were chosen for Sunday’s final scrimmages and closer inspection by the scouts and coaches from nine of the league’s ten teams ahead of the evening’s draft.
When the moment of truth arrived, former Express forward Logan Stutz, the new geneal manager and head coach of the expansion Sudbury 5, traded the first overall selection to Moncton for the rights to Juan Pattillo. The Magic used the trade up to select Canadian Miles Seward out of McMaster University.
Windsor also did some wheeling and dealing prior to the commencement of the draft. Vice president of Basketball Operations, Bill Jones, dealt the rights to guard Braylon Rayson to Stutz and Sudbury for the first pick in the second round, 12th overall, where he brought the 6′ 11″ Miroslav Jaksic, of Oklahoma Christian University, into the fold.
Jaksic is a Windsor native who played at the University of Toronto before transferring to D-I Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ, before landing at OCU.
Later in the 2nd round, Windsor took another Canadian, the 6′ 1″ Daniel Dooley, a play making guard from Burlington and the University of Guelph.
“Although we are playing host to the combine and are thus as accommodating as can be to our fellow franchises, make no mistake this is a competitive environment at all levels,” said Windsor’s president and CEO, Dartis Willis. “For the most part it’s handshakes and smiles, but behind each of our poker faces hides our true interests in the type of players we’re looking for. We may be talking all about the guards when what we’re really shopping for is big men.”
This double minded finesse is especially difficult for the house club, which masterfully concealed their ulterior motives to the casual eye. Other team presidents and owners were just as shy to project their true interests over the weekend.
“No thanks I don’t interviews on Sundays, I have more important work to do here,” joked Vito Frijia, the owner and GM of the champion London Lightning, when he refused a request for an interview. In the end, the Lightning used the 10th overall pick to take 6′ 0″ guard Johnathan Wallace from Guelph followed by Pickering’s Jameel Williamson, a 6′ 1″ guard from St Francis Xavier, to help bolster their championship back court.
Fortunately for Windsor, Williamson was not one of the top prospects identified by director of international and college scouting for the Express, Autry Parker Brantley. Accordingly, any given team’s draft strategy is not only to select the best player available at the time of their selection, but also to hope rivals don’t find what they’re after.
“The way get such a large response to our call for high calibre players to attend our combines is because we have established a great track record in the professional basketball community of strong franchises which deliver exciting products on the stadium floors, who pay our bills and player salaries on time, and provide notable playing experiences on and off the court,” said deputy league commissioner Audley Stephenson.
Working diligently behind the scenes to ensure the continued standards of NBL Canada, Express GM Erin Basterfield said, “Everything went pretty well for the second straight year. There’s some anxiety concerning which terms are going to pick which players, but overall things ran smoothly and we also made good selections.”