Don’t expect a lot of defence when the International Basketball League makes an appearance at Lindsay Thurber High School Saturday evening.
Both the Edmonton Energy and the visiting Yamhill Highflyers, of Oregon, believe in offence first.
The Energy are averaging over 130 points in their 10 starts this season — an 8-2 record — while the 1-2 Highflyers have scored 144 points per game.
“It’s a fast-paced league and because the league is short there’s not a lot of time to prepare for the year and defence is a learned behavior,” explained Energy GM and head coach Paul Sir. “You just don’t have the time for that defensive chemistry. Plus the offensive skill is very high. Every team has guys who can shoot. They’re excellent athletes, fast and play at a high tempo.”
The IBL also uses a 22 second clock.
“That’s quick and definitely speeds things up,” added Sir, who is in his second year with the Edmonton organization.
The team was started last season as the Chill and had a successful year, posting a 13-9 record, and drawing between 700 and 800 fans a game at MacEwan College.
This attendance has dropped this season to between 300 and 400 per game, as the team did have some ownership problems after last season.
“Plus the economy makes a difference,” said Sir. “But we have a group of 11 owners this season and we’re excited about the future.”
The Energy have an 11-man roster, with eight Canadians, including six from Alberta.
“We have a nice blend of local and American talent,” said Sir. “I know the guys are having fun with it.”
Four of the players are from Edmonton, including two — Andrew Parker and Alex Steele — who played with the University of Alberta. J.R. Patrick attended Santa Clara University and Stephen Sir Northern Arizona University.
Skouson Harker of Raymond attended the University of Oregon while the team’s newest edition — Chris Wright — is from Calgary. Lunzaya Nlandu is from Montreal and Kevin Shand from Toronto. Six-foot-11 Lee Scruggs of North Carolina attended Georgetown University while Williams Funn of San Bernardino was at Portland State and Antwon Mills of Houston attended Fresno Pacific University.
The majority of the players play professionally overseas and use the IBL to stay in shape during the off season. Or in some cases use the league as a showcase in an effort to get a bigger pro contract.
“This league is a great opportunity for the players to play some good basketball during their off season,” said Sir. “It’s better than just sitting around.”
Players do get a minimal salary.
“They don’t need a lot. They get an apartment and out of town players get food money and they get paid on a per-game basis, enough for spending money,” explained Sir, who also coaches Concordia University College in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference and is the executive director of Basketball Alberta.
Sir would like nothing better than to see basketball continue to grow in the province and feels the game Saturday will add to that.
“We want to allow everyone a chance to see the brand of basketball this league provides,” he said. “We want to make the game available to everyone and hopefully they’ll enjoy themselves and make a trip to Edmonton to a see a game again.”
The Energy plays the majority of their 20-game schedule at home. In fact they play only four games on the road.
“When this league was formed five years ago the founder did a study on why minor leagues fold and the main reason is travel costs,” said Sir. “So he set up schedules where teams only make one longer trip each year. Last year we played seven games on the road, this year the majority of the teams make their one longer trip here.”
There is also a team from Japan and one from China in the league. They make the trip to North America and play all their games within a small travelling area.
“There are a lot of teams in the corridor from Vancouver to Portland and they stay in one area and make shorter trips,” explained Sir.
The league, which runs until the end of June, has two divisions — east and west. The top eight teams in each division advance to a sudden-death playoff, with the winners meeting in the league final.
Game time Saturday is 7:15 p.m.
Contact Danny Rode at email@example.com