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International Basketball League Ready For A Strong Sixth Season

April 3, 2010 - International Basketball League (IBL)

Year number six of the International Basketball League is upon us. The league has upgraded the venues, talent and owners so look for a very exciting season. The standings will look a little different this season as the IBL goes back to the two division format instead of the four divisions it used for the past few seasons. The two divisions are called the International and Continental. The IBL welcomes Yamhill and Olympia as full time members. Last year both teams played branding schedules. The 2009 championship series between the LA Lightning and the Oregon Waves was a classic. Can LA repeat this season? Can Edmonton, who had the best record in the regular season last year, make a deeper run in the playoffs? Can Bellingham, who won the title two seasons ago, regain the top spot? What about the Oregon Waves, can they bounce back with all their Pac-10 caliber talent? Albany joins the IBL this season. Who can forget all the history of basketball in Albany? All of these questions will be answered soon as the IBL gets ready to tip off season number six.

The defending champs LA Lightning have a wonderful owner in Mark Harwell but it takes more than a great owner to win a title. The bottom line is LA has lots of talent. The roster of the Lightning is loaded with former NBA players who don't just show up and play rat ball, these guys take the game of basketball seriously, and it shows. Lamond Murray, Toby Bailey, Fred Vinson, Darrick Martin, Billy Knight and Bryon Russell lead the way for LA. Murray averaged 24 points and 6 rebounds a game for the Lightning last season. Bailey, Vinson, Martin all averaged over 16 points a game. Knight chipped in with 14 points a game. Keep your eye on the big seven foot center, Adam Parada, who averaged 17 points and 12 boards a game last season. The Lightning will tip off their season on the road May 7th at the University of Alberta as they take on the always tough Edmonton Energy. LA will play a three game series in Canada to begin their season and then return home to Cal Lutheran May 15th for a title game rematch against the Oregon Waves. Sunday May 16th will be a real treat for Lightning fans as KKFX/Fox 11 will televise the game between the Oregon Waves and the defending IBL champions LA Lightning. The contest will be held at the Sports Pavilion on the campus of Santa Barbara City College. Tip off is 3PM.

The Oregon Waves came within one game of winning their first IBL title last season. They lost game three of the best two out of three as LA prevailed over Oregon. It was a great match up of former NBA and division one players. The Waves look to gain a little revenge this season as their roster, once again, is dotted with former Pac-10 and division one caliber talent. People around the country will be familiar with many names on the Waves roster from 2009 including David Lucas, JS Nash and Lamar Hurd as they were all star players in the Pac 10 with Oregon State. 2009 Waves point guard Jeremiah Dominguez led his Portland State Vikings to back to back NCAA appearances; all Jeremiah did last season for the Waves is average 21 points and 8 assists per game. IBL vet Robert Day can light it up on any given night. Don't forget about former Oregon Duck, David Jackson who averaged 18 points and 5 assists last season. The roster is deep and talented so look for Oregon to make another run at the IBL title. The Waves tip off their season May 15th at Cal Lutheran against the defending champs LA Lightning.

The Bellingham Slam's roster can rival anyone's and along with great ownership and coaching they are a threat to win the IBL title every year. The Slam won the 2008 IBL championship defeating the Elkhart Express. Last year they were not able to defend their title as they lost to LA in the semi finals. Rob Ridnour returns as coach of the Slam and has plenty of talent to work with. Ryan Diggs and his 24 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds a game returns to Bellingham as do much of the core that popped the champagne in 2008. Sharp shooter Paul Hafford and IBL stars Jacob Stevenson and Brandon Hartley have signed on with the Slam again. A big off-season signing for the Bellingham is former Georgia Tech standout Ra'Sean Dickey. Slam General Manger, Robert Hoffstetter says, "He could be the best back to the basket scorer we have ever had." Bellingham begins their 2010 season April 9th with a home game at Whatcom Pavilion against the dangerous Tacoma Tide.

Who had the best regular season record last year? If you said the Edmonton Energy you would be correct! Many of the core players are back for the 2010 season to make another run at the IBL title. Scoring machine JR Patrick, lights out jump shooter Stephen Sir, team leader and point guard Will Funn and bruiser Lee Scruggs are all back to make the Energy a legit threat to raise the trophy in 2010. If you try to shut down Patrick and his 19 points a game and Sir with his 22 a game average, the Energy will beat you inside with Scruggs who scored at an 18 point a game clip last year. Point guard Will Funn always finds the open scorer as he averaged 12 assists a game in 2009. Did I mention Skouson Harker and his 18 points and 8 boards a game also returns? Don't be shocked if Edmonton has the best record in the IBL again and makes a run at the 2010 IBL title. The Energy tip off their season at home May 7th against the defending champs LA Lightning.

There are many excellent owners and ownership groups in the IBL but the Tacoma Tide may have one of the best. Pat Garlock and Mike Jennings took the controls last season and have built a very solid organization. The Tide were a surprising 14-8 last season. One of those wins was a victory over Bellingham in an OT thriller. The Tide is led by three solid and talented IBL veterans. Dontay Harris, who now holds the IBL all time scoring record is back along with Washington State product, Justin Murray and former Gonzaga player, Lorenzo Rollins. Murray led the Tide in scoring last year with 23 points a game; he also grabbed 9 boards a game. Harris and Ike Ohanson each average 18 points a game and 11 rebounds. Add Lorenzo Rollins and his 16 points and 5 rebounds and the Tide is a very talented ball club. A surprise last year was Antwan Williams out of University of Puget Sound. He average 13 points and 6 assists. Look for the Tide to have another double digit win season and challenge for a playoff spot. The Tide tip off their season on the road April 9th at Whatcom Pavilion taking on the Bellingham Slam.

The Vancouver Volcanoes are one of the original IBL teams and the past two seasons have been one of the leagues best. The Volcanoes have gone 33-14 the past two years and the 2010 outlook looks very bright. Head coach Bryan Hunter has put together an outstanding roster of talent. Returning this season are IBL veterans Cliff White, Alex Hartman, Gary Muzzy, Kevin "Pip" Bloodsaw and Brad Lechtenberg making the Volcanoes a very deep and talented team. Bryson McKenzie has committed to play for the Volcanoes but over seas commitments may force him to miss the IBL season (he averaged a double-double last season with 18 points and 14 rebounds a game). Vancouver was upended by the Oregon Waves in the first round of the playoffs last season and it did not leave a good taste in anyone's mouth. Look for Vancouver to make a deep run in the IBL playoffs this season. They tip off the 2010 campaign April 23rd at Whatcom Pavilion taking on the Bellingham Slam.

Professional basketball returns to Albany as the Albany Legends will be calling the historic Washington Avenue Armory home. The names of coaches and players who have stepped foot in the Armory is incredible. NBA coaches Phil Jackson, George Karl and the late Bill Musselman all prowled the sidelines in the Washington Armory. Mario Elie, Vincent Askew, Scottie Brooks, Sidney Lowe and Michael Ray Richardson showcased their talents in the Armory on their way to the NBA. Steve Miller, owner of the Legends and his partners, Bob Hord and Derrick Rowland, look to bring pro basketball back to life in Albany. Kenny Satterfield, former standout at University of Cincinnati, is one of the early players signed by Albany. With almost the entire east coast to pick from look for many more big time signings by the Legends. I would not be surprised if the ghosts in the Washington Armory lift the Legends and help them make a push to double digit wins and a chance at a title. The Albany Legends tip off their new era April 9th at home in the Armory against the Battle Creek Knights.

The Battle Creek Knights return to the IBL after a year in a different league. BC will once again play in Kellogg Arena one of the better venues for minor league basketball. Terrance Dickens, who led the Oregon Waves to the IBL title game last season, and the Portland Chinooks to the title game in 2007, will be at the helm of the Knights this season. This makes Battle Creek a threat for the title right away. Dickens knows how to coach and put a team together. The Knights have already signed some big time talent in 6'11" center Brandon Hassell who played his college ball at Penn State, 6'6 forward Everett Spencer from Wright State, and 6'9"power forward Jeff Willis with overseas experience and has had workouts with the LA Lakers and Miami Heat. The most recent signings are Gerald Carter a 6'4" combo guard who is currently playing in the EBA averaging 24 points a game, Brian Kortovich a 6'2" scoring machine who has many years of overseas experience. His Rucker Park nickname is "Smoking Aces." Those kinds of names are not given out lightly at Rucker. Another player recently inked is Charles Ward a 6'7" small forward/shooting guard who starred at Saint Augustine's averaging almost 20 points and 10 boards a game. He has had stints in the NBA with the Jazz rookie camp and Wizards summer camp. Head coach/GM Terrance Dickens says, "I am very excited with the type of talent we have coming in for our 2010 season." The Battle Creek Knights won the first IBL title in 2005 and look to hoist the hardware again in 2010. Game one for Battle Creek is April 3rd against the USA ALL-Stars at the Hidden Cove Sports Complex in Bourbonnias, Illinois.

The BC Vancouver Titans enter year number two in the IBL after a successful inaugural 2009. Lead by owner Jonathan Mara, the Titans have made excellent progress from year one to year two and the roster shows this. For a team to be successful it needs a great point guard and BC has just that in Kyle Keyes. He averaged 21 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds per game last season. Casey Archibald and Jessan Gray return to BC after averaging over 16 points a game in 2009. Add Josh Washington, James Washington and Emmanuel Unaegbu, who all averaged in double figures last year, and big man Scott Morrison who scored 20 points in the one game he played for BC last season, and V ancouver is a very tough team to guard. The Titans are capable of beating anyone- anytime. They start their 2010 season at home in the Langley Events Centre April 24th against the very dangerous Vancouver Volcanoes.

The Central Oregon Hotshots are one of the leagues original teams and are looking to get back to the .500 mark for the first time since their inaugural season in 2005. A new coach and new set of players look to turn things around for the men from beautiful Central Oregon. The Hotshots also have upgraded their venue and will play in the very nice Redmond Events Center. New head man Osa Esene is an experienced basketball man who played his college ball at University of Hawaii-Hilo. He was the conference player of the year in 2005-can anyone say player coach? (He won't be a player coach but was an excellent college basketball player) The roster has one returning player for last year in 2009 IBL All-Star Travis Noble. He average 18 points and almost 5 dimes in 2009. The new talent includes guards Desi Crisp, Hassan Stewart and Justin Lockhart. Chris Sessions, former college standout at Utah State, and Tony Akpan lead the way on the front line. Central Oregon will be adding more players to the roster after two tryouts in Florida. Central Oregon tips off their 2010 campaign May 1st in Portland Oregon at Warner Pacific College against the USA All-Stars.

The Olympia Reign will play its first 25-game season in the International Basketball League. After playing a branding schedule (partial schedule) the past two years, the Reign will begin its three-month season April 16 at home against the Tacoma Tide.Steve Smothers, a former Saint Martin's University player, will coach the team. The roster for Olympia will be made up of standout players from near by Saint Martin's college and Evergreen State College. Several players are back from the 2009 season including Nicholas Moore and Mike ward who both averaged over 18 points a game last year for Olympia. Moore also grabbed 10 boards a game. Bill Richardson and Marcus Wright who averaged double digits last season are back as well. The Reign fans will be treated to home games versus the LA Lightning and China Shanxi Zhongyu in June. Owner Mark Felton says, "This is something I've wanted to do. Some players asked me to do this a couple of years ago. I'm just trying to give them an opportunity." (From the Olympian.com-Gail Wood)

Kankakee returns for their fourth season (first two as the Windy City Soldiers.) in the International Basketball League. Their roster will feature the same stars as last season. The Soldiers finished 12-8 last season. Kankakee will play their home games at the Hidden Cove Sports Complex. They tip off their quest to win the IBL title March 26th on the road at the Holland Civic Center against the always dangerous Holland Blast.

The Yamhill HighFlyers will be participating in their first full IBL season after a nine game branding schedule in 2009. General Manager Eric Bailey has put together a very impressive roster of division one caliber talent. Returning from 2009 are prolific scorers Jason Hartford and Chris Hunt. Both averaged over 20 points per game last year for Yamhill. They will be joined by newcomer Nate Bowie who was a star last year for the BC Titans and is coming off a successful season in Spain. Veterans Tae Jackson and Damian Browne will be players to watch this season for the HighFlyers. Browne, a beast inside, averaged 14 points and 14 rebounds last year in the IBL. Bailey is very happy with his roster, saying, "We are very pleased with the roster we have put together and expect to compete right from the start. This is a solid pro-level team, with Division 1 level talent from top to bottom. This season should be very exciting for our fans." The HighFlyers will play home games at McMinnville High School. They begin their season May 1st at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon against the USA All-Stars with their home debut coming on Monday May 10th against the Central Oregon Hotshots.

The Holland Blast, long time IBL team, return in 2010 looking to improve on their impressive 15-4 record of last season. The Blast has been one of the more consistent teams over the years reaching double digits in wins the past four years in the IBL. Returning to the Blast this year is leading scorer Eddie Spencer. Spencer was very impressive scoring 18 points and pulling down 8 boards a game. Julius Vines and DeAngelo Johnson, who each poured in over 15 points a game in 2009, return for the Blast. Larry Logan, Kevin Ludwig and Jeremy File also return. They all averaged over 13 points a game in 2009. Blast owner Tyler Whitcomb says he has assembled some of his best talent yet. The Blast calls the Holland Civic Center home once again and begins their 2010 season at home March 26th against east coast rival Kankakee.

The IBL welcomes back China Shanxi, a team that competed in the IBL in 2008. Shanxi, a professional basketball team from China that plays in the Chinese Basketball Association is slated to play a 20-game season in the 2010 IBL season. Shanxi will play their first game in Oregon on Friday May 1st at Warner Pacific College in Portland Oregon against the USA All-Stars. China will play their home games at the US Basketball Academy near Eugene, Oregon.

The USA All-Stars, in their second season as an IBL club, are essentially a traveling try-out team that the league uses to showcase talent that the teams might have missed, and it's a plan that seems to be working as 14 players signed with IBL clubs in 2008, and 17 more players making IBL teams during the 2009 season. The USA All Stars team showed that there are still good players to be had as they increased their wins from one to four securing victories against veteran clubs like the Kankakee County Soldiers and the Snohomish County Explosion. Both of the club's All-Star nominees have moved on to other IBL clubs but did play seven games for the All Stars and these two players' overall accomplishments (total number of games, total statistics) are indeed worthy of recognition. Terrence Hundley (15G, 29.4pts, 4rbd, 6.1ast), who played 6 games for the USA All Stars, 3 games for the Grand Rapids Flight and 6 games for the Central Oregon Hotshots was 2nd in the league in scoring and 9th in the IBL in assists per game. The USA All-Stars also brought the league one of the fastest guards in America- Terry Jeffries (22G, 18.3pts, 4.8rbd, 5.2ast)- another electric guard whose year was so good that he was eventually signed by the Central Oregon Hotshots. The USA All Stars program/team will play in 2010 and beyond as the program/team has been deemed a success as most every game is a competitive game and 31 players have made it onto an IBL team roster. USA All-Stars tip off their 2010 season April 3rd against the Holland Blast at the Hidden Cove Sports Complex.

Jeff Duncan is a freelance writer and does high school sports play by play for IdahoSports.com. He can be reached at jdwazzu1@yahoo.com.

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