(WINDSOR, ON) – There is still work to be done despite the Windsor Express being eliminated from the NBL playoffs by the London Lightning 112-100 Saturday night at the Atlas Tube Centre in Belle River. Though the players will be taking a much deserved holiday, team management will be concentrating on next season.
After starting out the season considerably below .500, the Express got to work identifying weaknesses and locating the players needed to solidify the team.
“We thought we identified a good group of players, but that group was a little soft,” Express president Dartis Willis explained. “And so we made some changes. They didn’t jell well originally, so we made adjustments.”
The changes worked as Windsor quickly moved up the Central Division standings to settle in at 2nd place by seasons end.
“It was less than .500 ball. We were 5-11 when we made a couple of moves,” said head coach Bill Jones. “We brought in Juan Pattillo, a guys who is arguably one of the top 5, top 10, players in our league. We traded for Shaquille Keith. Darren Duncan came back. So when we got those guys together we brought in Logan Stutz, and we were able to accomplish our second goal of being the 2nd best team in our division.”
Pattillo led the league in rebounding, pulling down 361 boards for a 10.62 per game average. He also finished 8th in scoring with 18.12 ppg on a .491 field goal percentage (18th). Pattillo was 3rd on the Express in blocks, averaging just under 1 per game, behind Jernard Jerreau (1.45) and Nick Evans (1.44).
Windsor also occupied the No. 2 and 3 league positions for assists. Maurice Jones average 7.64 per game while Duncan was right behind him with 7.22.
“When you look back on a season it not how you started, but how you finished,” Jones said. “We finished strong, but unfortunately in the playoffs we didn’t get it done.”
And so it’s back to planning for next year and continuing to improve the Express to the level where they won back-to-back championships. Unlike any other team in the NBL, the Express have been to only play in five straight semi-finals.
But it isn’t just the players on the court who have to improve. Jones has set that goal for himself as well.
“Gonna go home. Probably won’t sleep well. But, then I’m going to find out how I can become a better coach. How I can become a better teacher. How I can become a better leader,” he explained. “And hopefully bring this organization another championship.”
Being in the situation of being swept from the playoffs doesn’t sit well with Willis.
“I have to go to the drawing board. There were some things missing,” Willis said. “Players, coaching, staff. I think there was a lot missing and we have to fix it.”
With the current season just ended, it’s too early to know what next season holds in store. But, team management has already fixed their sights on improving the product on the floor as well as operationally. Willis believes that will translate into a renewed interest by current fans and the recruitment of new spectators.
“I’m comfortable knowing that basketball can be successful in the county,” he said. “What you saw out here was 70-30. Thirty per cent from the WFCU Arena and 70 per cent new people. That was important. They got a good taste for basketball so we’re going to try to build on that.”