by Jeff Duncan
March 15, 2008 - International Basketball League (IBL)
The IBL regular season tipped off March 8th with a great rivalry game between the Bellingham Slam and the Snohomish County Explosion in Monroe, WA. SnoCo already had one game under their belt which was a 169-85 dismantling of the IBL traveling team, the USA All-Stars. Bellingham overcame an 11 point halftime deficit to briefly take a 98-97 lead with seven minutes left to play. The Slam dug itself to big of a hole and could not hang on as SnoCo emerged with a hard fought 116-106 victory. SnoCo was lead by Jamal Miller\'s 32 points and 12 boards. Donald Watts chipped in 31 points and Chris Weakly added 25. Ryan Diggs and Jacob Stevenson led 6 players in double figures for the Slam with 20 points each. Lukas Henne added 19 and Erroll Knight scored 13.
Game three for the Explosion is March 15th against a much improved Vancouver Volcano squad. Tip off is 7:15 at the Monroe Sports Arena. This will be the first game of the 2008 season for Vancouver.
The Gary Steelheads tipped of their 2008 season with an impressive 133-95 victory over the USA-All Stars. Gary coach Rob Spon still had 20 players on his roster for this game and played everyone. Ishmieal Kamara and Kenyon Gamble led the Steelheads with 12 points apiece. Former NBA player Sam Mack and Keenan Browder chipped in with 10. All the players in uniform for Gary scored at least two points, making Spon's cuts very difficult. Gary needs to be down to 12 players soon. No stats were available for the USA All-Stars.
An upcoming game to keep your eye on is Gary-vs-Battle Creek on March 20th. Both of these teams will be favored to go deep in the playoffs. This will be the opening game of the season for the Battle Creek Knights. Gary will have already played the USA All-Stars twice.
Lets take a look at some of the rosters in the IBL.
The Bellingham Slam roster is very impressive lead by recent signee, Erroll Knight, former Gonzaga standout. Knight began his professional career last season in Israel, playing for first-division team Hod Hasharon where he averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Other players on note on the Slam roster are, Paul Hafford, Brian Dennis, Jacob Stevenson and Jared Stevenson. Hafford was a key player last season for the Central Oregon Hotshots. He averaged 24.8 points per game and had a season high of 47 against the Portland Chinooks. Dennis and the Stevensons, Jared & Jacob, all played for the Slam when they played in the ABA.
The Snohomish County Explosion return many of the key players from last seasons 17-5 team. Donald Watts, Rashaad Powell, Justin Murray, Jamaal Miller and Chris Weakley return to defend the West division title. It's a credit to head coach Randy Redwine and the ownership of the Explosion that so many former players return.
Another team that returns many of their best players from last year is the Portland Chinooks. David Lucas, David Jackson, and Shammgod Wells return to try to win the IBL championship. The Chinooks lost to the Elkhart Express in the IBL championship last season. The Chinooks will also add 2007 IBL All-Star Dajuan Tate. Tate finished second in the IBL in scoring last season with an average of 35.6 points per game, then Tate took his game to China and averaged over 26 points per game. Tate is considered by many scouts to be one of the best players in the world not currently in the NBA. Former IBL all star Terrence Green and sharp shooter Robert Day and also return to Portland.
The Central Oregon Hotshots re-tooled their roster and look poised to make a run at the IBL championship. A solid group of returning players, along with a nice batch of new comers, put a smile on the face of new head coach Joe Becera. Returning to Central Oregon are, Phillip Freeman, Cliff White, Terry Horton and crown favorite, Arthur Lewis Jr. The newcomers include, Jamal Walker, Chucky Freirson, Dustin Hummel and sharp shooter, Jeff Dunn. Look for the Hotshots to duplicate their 144 point a game average from last year and also put more emphasis on defense.
The Vancouver Volcanoes may have the most improved roster in the IBL. Shawn Malloy, Gary Muzzy, Edjuan Green, Porter Troupe, Kevin Bloodsaw, and Brad Lechtenberg are the keys cogs for the Volcanoes. Malloy, Green and Muzzy provide a solid inside game, Troupe and IBL all time leading scorer Bloodsaw are the slashers, and Lechtenberg is the pure jump shooter. Look for good things from the Volcanoes this season. Clark College in Vancouver, WA will be home again for the Volcanoes.
The Expansion Edmonton Chill have started to assemble a nice stable of talent. Stephen Sir, JR Patrick, Marques Hayden, Rashaun Broadus, and big time scorer, Antone Jarrell, lead the Chill into the 2008 season. Jarrell played last year with the Salem Stampede of the IBL, where he averaged 25.3 ppg and scored a record 68 points against the Central Oregon Hotshots. Was 10th in league scoring and was named to the 2007 IBL All-Star team. Hayden Played last year with Seattle of the IBL and most recently played for Talca Espanol of the Dimayor League top division in Chile, where he averaged 20.3 ppg,9.0 rpg and 1.3 bpg. Was ranked as #10 power forwards out of college at the NBA Players Association Camp behind the likes of current NBA All-Star and Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh.
The Gary Steelheads, in a word, are loaded. With 20 players still on the roster some players are bound to be cut soon. I would count on the following ballers to make the Gary Squad. 37-year-old former NBA vet Sam Mack, Keenan Browder and brothers Terrance and Torrance Hayes. Also keep your eye on Keyon Gamble, Ishmieal Kamara and DeAnthony Bowden. There are rumors floating around that Gary is interested in signing former NBA all star, Glen "Big Dog" Robinson. Stay tuned for updates on this
The Grand Rapids Flight return for another IBL season and will be lead by IBL all star\'s Micah Lancaster and seven foot nine inch Sun Ming Ming. Other players to watch are Kenny Langhorne, Terrance Shaw, DeAngelo Johnson and former NBA player Charles Smith. David Fox returns for his second season on the bench. The Flight will play their home games in the very posh DeltaPlex arena.
The two time defending IBL champs Elkhart Express will bring back the nucleus of their team from 2007. Tim Pledger, Colecu Buie, Jarrod Lovette and Phil Calvert will join newcomers Michael Brownlee and seven foot one center Chris Charles. Brownlee averaged 25.6 points per game last year with Marysville.
Windy City looks to improve on last seasons 0-18 record. The Soldiers' 2008 roster is highlighted by Barry Bradford and Amir Major, who both earned IBL All-Star honors in 2007. Major is a capable scorer, who averaged 20.6 points per game last season for the Soldiers. Bradford averaged 15.8 points per contest last season, and will again be relied on to run the offense. 6'10 center Erik Rhinehart is a huge addition in the middle, giving the Soldiers an inside presence that they lacked a season ago. 6'9 CeCe Malone will also help bolster the interior.
The Elgin Racers return some fire power from last seasons 16-6 team. IBL all star\'s Brandon Watkins and Sherick Simpson return to add scoring punch to the Racers. Simpson averaged 25.2 points per game in 2007. Also returning to Elgin are DeAnthony Bowden and Keith Gayden. Michal Murphy returns to the sidelines in 2008 to try and get Elgin over the hump.
I am still awaiting more roster information from the LA Lightning, Las Vegas Stars, Tacoma Jazz, Holland Blast, and the Battle Creek Knights. If you are interested in the roster of China Shanxi Kylins, check out www.iblhoopsonline.com.
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