Get an Albany Patroon to run your sports league

I have never shied away from my love for the long-departed Albany Patroons basketball team.  Two championships, five regular-season titles, and a slew of NBA players and coaches came from our little Continental Basketball Association team.

And today I want to take a moment and salute one of those former Patroons and his successful involvement with another pro basketball circuit.

David Magley played for the Albany Patroons during their 1983-84 championship year.  The 6’8″ small forward from Kansas spent a few weeks with the Cleveland Cavaliers organization prior to his Patroons run, then he moved on to the coaching ranks.

Continue reading “Get an Albany Patroon to run your sports league”

Royce White: Breaking through anxiety like a bolt of lightning

If you’re a pro basketball fan, you might have heard of Royce White.  He was drafted in 2012 out of Iowa State by the Houston Rockets (first round, 16th overall), who hoped that the 6’8″ power forward with gigantic hands would help build the team for years to come.

Unfortunately, Royce White was dealing with issues that were stronger than battling to the paint.  He suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.  And one of those disorders was a fear of flying.  The Rockets put White on their D-League team in Rio Grande Valley, then traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers.  He then bounced to the Sacramento Kings, where he split time between their D-League franchise in Reno and three games with the big club.

And now… Royce White wants to prove that he does have the talent to make it back to the NBA, and that he can use his skillsets to work past the mental handcuffs that plagued his adult career.

Last week, Royce White signed a contract to play for the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada.  He also founded the online support group Anxious Minds, which offers frank and open discussions about the battles of mental health, anxiety disorders and clinical depression.  Rather than being a victim, Royce White now wants to be an advocate.

Which, in itself, is amazing.  Rather than saying his NBA career is impossible, Royce White wants to show it can be possible.

In the NBL, White will play in a highly competitive ten-team league.  The other four teams in the Central Division are all Ontario-based franchises and are easily accessible by bus or car.  As for the games in the Maritimes – well, that will be an issue for future discussing and addressing.

But for now, the only time Royce White should be concerned about flying … is when he’s heading to the hoop for a two-handed jam.

FTC BLOG DISCLOSURE: Although I am associated with the National Basketball League of Canada as their statistician and director of player clearances, at no time was I approached by any NBL-C team owner, coach or employee to compose this piece on Royce White.  This article was composed to show that the path to professional basketball is a long and arduous journey, and that there are no easy paths to achieve your dream.

NBL Canada begins its sixth season

Six years ago, three men – Vincent Bernier, Ian McCarthy and Andre Levingston – broke their teams away from the independent Premier Basketball League and formed a new professional basketball circuit, the National Basketball League of Canada.  I joined up with them for the 2011-12 season, and have remained with the NBL even after those three men left the league to pursue other interests.

And this year begins the sixth season of independent professional hoops for this league.  Or as I refer to it, “my mistress for the next six months of my life.”

Actually, considering my relationship status right now – or lack thereof – that’s not a bad thing.

For the first time in league history, the NBL will sport ten teams – five in Ontario (the London Lightning, Windsor Express, Niagara River Lions, Orangeville A’s and the new Kitchener-Waterloo Titans), and five in the Atlantic Maritimes (Halifax Hurricanes, Island Storm, Moncton Miracles, the new Saint John Riptide, and the new Cape Breton Highlanders).  Ten teams, each playing a 40-game season, with the top four teams in each division moving to the playoffs.

And the league has received growth and respect in the basketball world.  Maurice Bolden, who played three seasons in the NBL for the London Lightning and Windsor Express, was recently selected in the first round (18th overall) by the NBA D-League’s San Antonio Spurs affiliate in Austin.

And with the season starting less than two months from now, I have to get my prepwork done.  Statistics must be maintained.  Player clearances must be achieved.  High speed internet connection must be maintained, as all the NBL Canada games are streamed worldwide on YouTube.  Awesome stuff.

And then there’s the personal matters.  Such as, are there any teams that have a lineage with the Albany Patroons?

Well, the league’s commissioner, David Magley, played on Phil Jackson’s championship squad in 1983-84; and the Saint John Riptide’s Gabe Freeman was a member of Albany’s last squad in 2008-09.  So there’s that.

This year, ten teams will begin “The Pursuit,” as the NBL’s sixth season hashtag #thepursuit makes clear.  Check out this video and see what I mean.

This becomes my calming point.  In this measure, ten teams and ten dozen players and ten coaches and ten general managers and a commissioner and a director of league operations all count on me.

I won’t let them down.

See, while other teams are focusing on #thepursuit of a championship…

I’m focusing on #thepursuit of a successful NBL Canada season.

This is how I roll.  Trust me.  I couldn’t shoot a free throw to save my life.  But I can damn well make sure I have the statistical averages and free throw percentages for every player in this league.

It’s also nice to know that people and organizations can count on me.  You know – just get the damn job done.

In the end… that’s all that matters.

Now of course I know I have many blog readers who couldn’t give two rebounds about basketball, let alone basketball in Canada.

That’s fine.  There’s a bunch of other blog posts you can read, maybe I’ll post one today or tomorrow or two weeks from Friday.

And I apologize for being selfish on this front …

But at least if I can at least achieve success in this front …

Then all is good for me.

Celebrating “Mr. 40 Day” in Chicago

Tony Bennett is a star with the National Basketball League of Canada, where he helped the Windsor Express earn a 2015 NBL championship.  Prior to his NBL years, he starred in the Premier Basketball League and in the Continental Basketball Association; and while in college, he helped Bradley University advance to the Round of 16 in the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament.

Yesterday, Bennett participated in something that, for him, was even greater than all those hoops accolades.

It was his second annual “Mr. 40 Day,” an event where he gave back to the children of his Chicago hometown.  Thanks to his basketball connections and with reach-outs to several sponsors, Bennett helped provide a day of respite for children in one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods.  The kids received sneakers, basketballs and bookbags for positive motivation and inspiration.

"Mr. 40 Day" from Tony Bennett's Facebook page.
“Mr. 40 Day” from Tony Bennett’s Facebook page.

Yeah.

I asked Tony yesterday about “Mr. 40 Day” and how it came about.  Here’s what he told me.

“Mr. 40 Day is just a day for me to give back to the kids in my community.  I came up with the idea last year – my birthday is August 22nd, so last year I decided that for my birthday for the rest of my life, I would celebrate it by having a day specifically for the kids from the neighborhood I grew up in, instead of partying or doing any of the typical things a person a do for their birthday!”

Tony knows the importance of giving kids the opportunity to avoid the pitfalls that could ruin their lives.  Gang violence.  Drugs.  Guns.  Any kid that can find a way out – through education or through basketball, for example – is a kid that can be saved.

“I grew up in a neighborhood (the Village) that doesn’t have too much positive to look forward to, and over the last few years I’ve become like the prized possession of the neighborhood with all the basketball success I’ve had.  So I reached out to all the connects I have thru basketball – like Nike, ballup, Jordan Brand, etc., and they sent all types of products for the kids.  I also provide food, haircuts  and other prizes – but I ONLY do it for the kids in the neighborhood, and I allow no women to work or lift a finger on that day, only the guys from the neighborhood work on this day.  Mr. 40 Day is a chance for me to give something to my neighbors every year, so that the kids have a chance of making it out like I did without giving in to the gangs, drugs, or whatever in house personal issues that may be going on!”

Tony stressed that what he’s doing with the “Mr. 40 Day” was not only his chance to “pay good things forward,” but also to honor those who helped him when he was looking for positive role models as a youth.

“There was a man in my neighborhood named Mr. Farley, he had a talent show, a dance contest, and basically just a huge gathering for the neighborhood to all get together as one before the school year started.  I took that concept twisted it a little and came up with Mr. 40 Day.  My hopes is to get it to the point where I can give every kid in the neighborhood a book bag, a pair of shoes, and a start-up to go back to school with – and eventually do a second Mr. 40 Day in a different  neighborhood other than mine every year.”

All the best to those who participated in Chicago’s second annual “Mr. 40 Day,” and thanks to Tony Bennett for making this day a very special one for at-risk youth.

Oh yeah.  In case you forgot who Tony Bennett is…

Let me remind you.

He was also the man who “kindly” reminded me that I’m not the best prognosticator of basketball tournament picks.  😀

All is good, my brother.  Congratulations on a successful, blessed and happy Mr. 40 Day!!

Orest Hrynwak: An elegy for Captain Cash

Please let me tell you a story today.  A story about a man named Orest.

I first met Orest ten years ago.  At the time, I was freelancing for a minor league sports website which paid its writers on promises and not much else.  At the time, Orest was the general manager of the Rochester RazorSharks, a first-year basketball team in a ragtag circuit called the American Basketball Association.  I was at a Sharks game to write an article about the team, who were setting attendance and scoring records in a leauge where the quality of play ranged from top-notch to barely afloat.  In fact, the team Rochester was playing that afternoon, the Montreal Matrix, arrived at Blue Cross Arena in a minivan with only five players, a coach and a photographer.  Yet Orest welcomed the team in, and several thousand fans watched the Sharks win another game.

Manchester Millrats v Rochester Razorsharks 2009 Playoffs Game 2//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsWe now move forward to 2008.  The Sharks have moved to the Premier Basketball League, a higher-caliber independent league.  I’m working with the PBL as a photographer and statistician, and I had an idea for a swank photo.  Orest helped me arrange to photograph the action from the ceiling of Blue Cross Arena, my camera pointing down from the rafters (and me hanging from the rafters, figuratively from the tips of my toenails) to get a shot of Rochester’s Sammy Monroe and James “Mook” Reaves battling under the basket with the Manchester Millrats’ Marlowe Currie and Sam Carey.  The photo, which I later called “Action Under the Basket,” won me my first-ever photography competition ribbon.

Orest Hrynwak loved the Rochester RazorSharks.  It ws a childhood dream for he and his brother Severko to own a professional sports team in their hometown of Rochester, New York.  And once they owned the team, they helped build it into a minor league hoops powerhouse, with six professional championships spanning two leagues in the past decade.

Orest Hrynwak loved rock and roll.  Prior to his involvement with the Sharks, he was a program director and general manager for a Rochester rock radio station.  He used the broadcast name of “Captain Cash,” and if you had a radio station bumper sticker on your car, he would drive by, pull you over, and hand you money on the spot.  His Facebook page featured dozens of “Throwback Thursday” photos of him with several local and national bands and singers of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  In fact, in 2010 he used his connections to have Foreigner lead singer (and Rochester native) Lou Gramm sing the national anthem at a RazorSharks game.  Lots of fun.

Orest Hrynwak loved his family, and he doted on his beloved mother.  Every time I came to a Sharks game, there was his mother and his brother Roman, both sitting in prestige “Jack Nicholson” seats, to watch the RazorSharks play (and win) another match.

Orest Hrynwak loved his Ukrainian heritage.  He participated in several fundraisers for the local Rochester Ukrainian church, St. Jehosophat’s, and his pride of being a Ukranian-American showed through every single time.

Orest Hrynwak recently suffered from heart issues, and underwent bypass surgery a few months ago.  The surgery was successful, but even in that success Orest knew that every moment after that hospital stay was as precious and as fleeting as ever.  For no matter how long one holds back death, there will come a moment when the black chariot arrives, and the chauffeur says, wryly, “You’re ride’s here.”

This morning, I received terrible news.

The chauffeur arrived for Orest Hrynwak, and the chariot had a 98 PXY bumper sticker.  Orest was only 59.

Orest lived every moment with joy and excitement.  He cheered when his Sharks won game after game and championship after championship.  He was an icon and a stalwart of Rochester rock and roll music, both local and international.  And he will be missed.

God bless you, Orest, and thanks for everything you’ve done and every life you’ve brightened.

Now go and show that rock and roll hallelujah chorus up in the next world how to promote the concert for the ages.

Support Jamario Moon in the TBT Basketball Tournament 2016!

I am a long-time fan of all things related to the Albany Patroons.  I keep an eye out for the progress of former players and coaches, and I have several former Pats as Facebook friends, Twitter followers and even an Instagram contact or two.

I am also a supporter of the TBT Basketball Tournament, the summer independent hoops tournament that is now entering its third year.  Last year, I supported Team Mill Rats, an offshoot squad that featured several players from the National Basketball League of Canada’s Saint John Mill Rats.

At one point last year, the team would have included former Albany Patroons and NBA superstar Jamario Moon.  But at the last minute, Moon jumped to another team, and the Mill Rats were clobbered in their first round appearance.

So now comes this year’s tournament.  Do I go back and support the Mill Rats again … or do I follow my fandom and support Jamario Moon’s team?

Good question.

Here, let me answer it.

For the 2016 TBT Tournament, I am lending my support to the squad known as Clutch ATL.  Clutch ATL is entering the South Division of the TBT Tournament, and besides Jamario Moon, the squad also includes former Atlanta Hawks All-Star Paul Millsap, his brother from Middle Tennessee State Abraham Millsap, and international pro basketball star Brion Rush.

Oh wait, did I forget to mention that the team also includes Jamario Moon, who went from the Albany Patroons to eventually be teammates with, at one time or another during his NBA career, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Shaquille O’Neal and Blake Griffin?  Yeah, that Jamario Moon.

So here’s what I ask of you, my fellow blog readers and hoops fans.

Click on this link and support Clutch ATL in the TBT Basketball Tournament.  Every vote that Clutch ATL gets brings them closer to qualifying for the 97-team knockout bracket.  And once they get in the game… just wait until J-Moon gets the basketball and flies through the air.

Yeah, I know I could support Team Mill Rats again… I could… but I would rather support my man J-Moon.  Besides, what other basketball player do you know that also sings along with whatever’s on the radio – and then dances around with his kids – and then posts that sing-along to his Instagram account? 🙂

Turnt all the way up because life is grrrrrreat!!!

A video posted by

Never bet against Tony Bennett. Never.

When you make a prediction in your NCAA brackets, or you pick a team to win the Super Bowl, there’s a distinct possibility that you’re not going to have a correct pick.  And you throw your hands in the air and say, “Well, my bracket got busted, there’s always next year.”

Then again, you’re not the league statistician for the National Basketball League of Canada.

And somewhere along the way, I had this great idea that I could predict the playoff finals.

Last year, I was nearly perfect – and in the Central Division conference finals, I had the Brampton A’s beating the Windsor Express in six games, winning the best-of-seven series 4-2.

Someone must have taken my words and hot-glued them to the Windsor Express bulletin board.

Because after Windsor won the series 4-3, this little video popped up on the interwebs.

I know, I know… it never gets old.

Now this year, I made another bold prediction.  And, in fact, three of my four picks are either moving to the next round, or they’re in command of their respective series.

And in the fourth matchup, I picked the (St. Catherines, Ont.) Niagara River Lions to upset the Windsor Express, figuring it would be the equivalent of an NCAA 5-12 upset seed.

And what happens?  The Express win in three straight games, sweeping Niagara out of the game.

Dang it.  Bracket busted.  And it was busted by the Windsor Express, of all people.  So I know that video is coming.  It’s probably up on Facebook right now.

Oh wait.  Got a phone call.  Scuse me for a second… hmm…

So who’s calling?  It’s Tony Bennett.

No, not the classic vocalist.

This Tony Bennett is a 6’1 guard who played collegiately at Bradley.  He’s suited up in the National Basketball League of Canada for several seasons, and he currently leads the Express in both assists and steals.  No, he called me up – first, to give me a few good-natured ribbings, then he said something I wasn’t expecting.

“Hey, I need your address.  I’m going to send you one of my game jerseys when the season is over.”

Well now… wasn’t expecting that…  Much appreciated and welcomed.  I do have a nice collection of minor league jerseys – mostly Albany Patroons gear, but also some game-worns from some other minor league teams along my basketball travels.

So here’s the deal.  As soon as a Windsor Express Tony Bennett #5 jersey arrives at the Town and Village, I will post a photo of myself wearing the uni.  Right here in the blog, I’ll post it.  Hey, it’s all good.  It’s all fun.  And I’m a big enough man to admit that I messed up the bracket by going for the underdog instead of picking chalk.

But now it’s on to the next round for Windsor.  And they get to face the London Lightning, for the chance to advance to the NBL Championship series against the Atlantic Division champions.

It’s still fun, no matter what.