Youth sure to boost Cavs
In the build-up to the 2012 Premier League season, NATION basketball correspondent Justin Marville continues his team previews.
TEAM: Mpact Station Hill Cavaliers
Head coach: Adrian Craigwell
Last year’s record: 12-8 (sixth)
Average points per game: 73.8 (third)
Average points against: 68.1 (seventh)
Key additions: Darren Hunte, Stefan Yarde, Steve Grenville, Seon Hilliman, Saeed Norville Key losses: Kelvin Patterson, Andrew Alleyne, Ricardo Yearwood, Errol Pollard
No matter how you look at it, things really can’t get any worse than Station Hill’s 2011.
Unless of course these Cavs can find a way to top last year’s debacle of forfeiting a game, losing five of the first seven contests, having four players suspended, watching Ricardo Yearwood get kicked out of the league, and getting divided by the turmoil between the head coach and star player.
Oh, and then going on to miss the play-offs for the first time in eight seasons.
But even after all that Days Of Our Lives-type drama, Station Hill only fell short of the postseason by one game, so that bodes well for a squad which has added some much-needed young legs around a nucleus that has won four of the last eight league crowns.
In the departed Kelvin Patterson (16.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.5 apg), they’ll be without the league’s most domineering force, an elite scorer in the post and a great rebounder – but the burly centre gives up just as many points as he scores and the Cavs will be better off without him.
Andrew Alleyne – arguably the country’s greatest ever player – won’t be around either, though you could argue the disinterested veteran was also missing last season after averaging career lows in both points (6.8) and (5.8) rebounds.
Station Hill’s scoring in the paint and defensive rebounding shouldn’t take much of a hit, though, not with Junior Moore, Jamai Puckerin and Andre Jean-Pierre still around to man the paint.
And their perimeter production is actually about to get better, as the athletic and prolific Darren Hunte will prove to be a significant upgrade over Yearwood, Jason Smith and Kevin Sealy.
Promoted point guard Steve Grenville could also serve as an improvement to Errol Pollard as the reserve point guard, although his impact will be minimal backing up Corey Williams.
Prediction: losing semi-finalists
Less (drama) will mean more (productivity) in this case, as this team is a play-off contender – though the collective youth will prevent it from being a title challenger.
Coach Adrian Craigwell will know what buttons to push to get the best from this unit, but his side’s defence won’t be good enough to slow the likes of Lakers, especially with the pace Cavs play at.
Warriors should make it to semis
TEAM: First Works Warriors
Head coach: Frederick Bynoe
Last year’s record: 13-7 (regular season – fourth), (semi-finalists – play-offs)
Average points per game: 68.6 (fifth)
Average points against: 65.3 (fifth)
Key additions: Justin Maloney
Key losses: Jamar Headley (possible), David Smith
It’s been basketball’s worst-kept secret that Corey McDonald was trying to break his way out of Dodge to jump on the ride that is now the Pinelands hype-wagon.
And had the transfer gone through, it might’ve worked in Warriors’ favour, considering he gave them the production of a role player (11 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.1 apg) but with the usage rate of a Most Valuable Player.
McDonald, though, swears he’s recovered enough from his knee and Achilles injuries to return to his old All-Star self of 2002 to 2008 – and if Warriors can even get half of that form they’ll be better off than last season.
As it stands, the potential loss of Jamar “Spanner” Headley will hurt more, as the men from Dayrells Road could be without their best finisher at the ring and a sturdy rebounding force who put up solid numbers of ten points and 6.9 rebounds as a rookie.
His expected absence detracts from the glut of lengthy wing players Warriors have in their arsenal – although of that group, only McDonald is capable of consistently creating his own shot.
It means a lot of Warriors’ success this season will depend on Tremaine Shaw’s maturation as a star point guard who understands the balance between looking for his own shot and getting others involved.
But that too is subject to some uncertainty, as the arrival of Justin Maloney could see Shaw spending major minutes playing off the ball at the other guard position.
What’s really troubling, though, is that Warriors sought to make no major upgrades to their undermanned front court, which features only three post players in total – two of whom can score with any consistency and just one over six-foot-two.
Prediction: losing semi-finalists
The lack of big – and quality – post players has to be a concern for a side that has hopes of making the postseason, and I do believe this spot might be a bit too high for a team short of viable offensive options.
But history has taught me the folly in overlooking any Frederick Bynoe-coached outfit, especially one that knows how to get stops and win ugly.