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!!

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.

My 2016 National Basketball League of Canada playoff picks

Yep, it’s that time once again.

The National Basketball League of Canada has just finished its fifth regular season, and is now headed toward its postseason.  This year, all eight teams – four in Ontario, four in the Maritimes – will participate in the playoffs.

And since I don’t participate in the NCAA basketball bracket game (I still believe that you should only be in the NCAA tournament if you’ve actually WON your conference), the NBL tournament is more to my liking.

The quarterfinal rounds are best-of-five, the semifinal rounds are best-of-seven, and the Finals – which features the Atlantic Division team versus the Central Division team – is a best-of-seven championship.  Ontario-based teams have won the last four championships, so will an Ontario team make it five in a row?

Let’s see.

Last year, I was nearly perfect in my bracketology, having picked all four quarterfinal winners and the Atlantic Division champions.  Um… I did mess up on one pick in the Central Division… and the team that won that round certainly let me know of my error.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know… But hey, how many of you got YOUR NCAA bracket busted and had the winning team make a YouTube video to clown you for your incorrect pick?

Okay… so let’s take a look at the brackets, shall we?

I’ll start in the Atlantic Division.  The 2-3 matchup features the Saint John (N.B.) Mill Rats against the Moncton (N.B.) Miracles.  Saint John has some intangibles working for it – they have plenty of veteran leadership in long-time players Anthony Anderson, Doug Herring Jr. (who played at Utica College) and Gabe Freeman (a former member of the Albany Patroons).  Moncton, on the other hand, has been a scrappy opponent every night, and their head coach is former NBA center Paul Mokeski.  This is a tough one to pick.  Veteran leadership versus veteran players.

My pick – Saint John Mill Rats in 4 games.

The other side of the bracket features the Halifax (N.S.) Hurricanes against the (Charlottetown, PEI) Island Storm.  The Storm have had more injuries than an entire episode of Grey’s Anatomy, but they’ve stayed in the game each time.  Halifax, on the other hand, has dominated from the start of the season to the end, and has the league’s best record at 29-11.

My pick – Halifax Hurricanes in 3 games.

Halifax versus Saint John in a best-of-seven.  This will be a tough battle between two strong squads, and I think the big variable here will be defense.  And that’s where the Mill Rats have an advantage in Anthony Stover.  The former UCLA star not only broke the record for most blocked shots in a season (which was 66), he actually DOUBLED the record (finishing with 132 blocks).  God freakin’ damn.

My pick – Saint John Mill Rats in 6 games.

Let’s now go to the Central Division, where all four Ontario teams are based.  Starting off with the 2-3 seed, the Windsor Express against the expansion (St. Catherines) Niagara River Lions.  Niagara has the league’s top scorer in Logan Stutz, while the Express counter with veterans Tony Bennett and Brandon Robinson.  There’s the old adage… play like you’ve been there before.  Windsor has.  Niagara hasn’t, but they won’t go away quietly.

Which is why I’m actually leaning toward choosing the River Lions for this matchup.  You know that in the NCAA brackets, there’s always a #12 seed that sends the #5 seed home crying.  The River Lions may be that underdog Cinderella team that, in a good strong struggle, can take this bracket.

My pick – Niagara River Lions in 5 games.

And I bet right now, Windsor’s Tony Bennett is looking for a fully-charged video camera so that he can do another “I Believe that we can win” video for me again.

Now for the 1-4 matchup – the London Lightning versus the Orangeville A’s.  Let me help you out.  Orangeville is just outside of Brampton.  Let me help you some more.  Brampton is just outside of Toronto.  Let me help you out some more. … Toronto is just outside of America.  😀

That being said, the A’s have gone through several long losing streaks this season – but, in all honesty, the streaks have been snapped by wins over the division-leading Lightning.  Still… Orangeville would need to win three games against the two-time NBL champions.  I’m not seeing that happening any time soon.

My pick – London Lightning in 3 games.

The Central Division matchup will feature London versus Niagara.  And no matter how much spark and spunk the River Lions may have… I’m not seeing them pulling the upset a second time.

My pick – London Lightning in 5 games.

Okay.  Lightning versus Mill Rats, NBL championship series.  Best of seven.  This will be a highly contested and spirited matchup.  Can veteran minor league coach Rob Spon guide the Mill Rats to wins against Canadian head coach Kyle Julius (who actually played FOR the Lightning years ago)?

Yeah, it will come down to this.

My prediction… and mind you, this is my personal opinion and should only be taken as such…

It’s going to go to Game 7.

It’s going to go to overtime.

And in the final moments…

With London down by two and London’s top rookie Stephen Maxwell driving to the lane with seconds to go…

He goes up for the layup…

Anthony Stover swats it into the cheap seats…

Clock expires.

Saint John Mill Rats take the win and the NBL Championship.

Raise the banner.

And that’s my prediction for the 2016 NBL Canada playoff championships.  You can take them as you see fit.  If you like my predictions, that’s great.  If you hate them … just do like the Windsor Express did last year.  Make a video and let me know how wrong my picks were.

The playoffs start Monday.

Can’t wait.

NBL Canada’s new weekly wrapup show (with Chuck Miller content)

For the past five seasons, I’ve worked behind the scenes with the National Basketball League of Canada as their league statistician and director of player clearances.  It’s a fun job and I enjoy it very much.  Heck, when you can get league coverage in the New York Times, that’s not too shabby…

And yes, there have been plenty of Albany-based talent within the NBL – Tommy Mitchell (Siena) played there, as did Marvin Phillips (Albany Patroons) and Gabe Freeman (Albany Patroons – currently with the Saint John Mill Rats).  Head coaches in the NBL?  Micheal Ray Richardson (Albany Patroons) did three seasons as head coach with the London Lightning, winning two titles.  And you’ve probably heard of NBA players like Mark Strickland and Bill Jones and Cliff Levingston and Jaren Jackson – they’ve all coached in the NBL as well.  Oh yeah, and I have to make sure TU blogger Stephanie Snyder is aware of any players from Marshall in the league – Hey Steph, Tirrell Baines just signed with the Moncton Miracles!

Okay, that’s taken care of.

Now I want to share this fun thing with you.

The NBL currently airs a 30-minute weekly wrap-up show, featuring top games, top plays, and player interviews.  Hosted by Mitchell Kobe Kay​ and Brett Hedges, the NBL Canada Live This Week video podcast is a fun wrapup of the events going on with the league.

Here’s an example of the show.  Among the fun recaps in this broadcast is a showcase of what was essentially the league’s Game of the Week – “Clash at the Coliseum III,” in which the Windsor Express dominated the London Lightning in the third-ever match played at a packed house at the Caesars Windsor casino.

Oh yeah, you want to see this video show.

Allow me to grant your wish.

And oh yeah, the show also contains my weekly “Chuck Miller’s NBL Canada Cool Stat of the Week,” it’s about 23 minutes into the clip.  What can I say?  In my heart, I’m a stat rat, and basketball stats are my cheese.

Anyways, check this podcast out.  It’s great basketball, it’s competitive basketball, and it’s fun basketball.

You can’t ask for much more than that.