After the unfortunate end of the 2014-15 season that saw the final game of the NBL Canada Finals forfeited and awarded to the Windsor Express, and the subsequent bankruptcy and disbanding of the Halifax Rainmen, a new ownership group has stepped in keep professional basketball in Halifax.
By combining an appropriate mix of the old and the new, Halifax returns for the 2015-16 season as a new team in a new direction. Aptly named the Hurricanes, the team hopes to win back the trust of Halifax hopefuls and start a new era of basketball in Halifax. Former owner Andre Livingston is back with the team as general manager and was key in the return of a Halifax team.
Last year’s Halifax squad had a year to remember with a finish to forget. After a slow start to the season, much-needed changes were made to the rotation and lineup for the Rainmen. Halifax would close their season out on a 10 game winning streak and storming their way through the first and second round of the playoffs to reach the NBLC Finals and push the defending champions to a game seven. As mentioned, a series of unfortunate events would end up with the championship being awarded to the Windsor Express. Many feel the Rainmen were more than capable of winning their first championship.
Fast forward to September and a new ownership group stepped forward to announce a new team in Halifax: the Hurricanes.
Being a brand new franchise from top to bottom, only the moderately similar color scheme, point guard Clifford Clinkscales, and GM Andre Levingston remain from the old Halifax regime.
The most impactful additions on the court come in the form of former Idaho Stampede starter Shane Gibson and former number 1 overall draft pick Alex “Superman” Johnson. Gibson was a three-year starter at Sacred Heart University averaging over 21 points his final two seasons before playing a season for the Idaho Stampede, starting in over half of their games and scoring almost 13 points per game. Gibson will provide scoring, experience, and shooting for the Hurricanes.
Journeyman Alex Johnson has continued to be one of the better Canadians in the league for the past two years since being drafted. Having played for two teams in two years, Johnson is a solid point guard that compliments Clinkscales and shores up their point guard position.
Other additions to the team are Canadian rookie SG Negus Webster-Chan, PF Mike Glover, C Kyle Hunt, PF Anthony Simpson, SG Joseph Bertrand, SF Raymond Cowels, PF Billy White, SF Manock Lual, PF Tony Criswell, and draft picks PG Greg Foster, SF Antonia Garrett, SF Jamil Edward-Dudley, and SG Hunter Armani-Cotton.
Halifax lost a lot last year, including its coaching staff and roster. The loss that will be felt the most will be high flyer Kevin Young, one of the NBLC’s best players last season. Young was a mid-season addition that almost single-handedly willed the Rainmen from the middle of the Atlantic Conference to the top.
GUARDS: SG Shane Gibson, SG Joseph Bertrand, SG Negus Webster-Chan, PG Alex Johnson, PG Clifford Clinkscales, PG Greg Foster, SG Hunter Armani-Moore
It will be interesting to see which rotation the Hurricanes go with for their guards. Johnson and Clinkscales will likely get the bulk of the minutes at the lead guard, making it hard for first round draft pick Greg Foster to crack the rotation. Johnson is capable of playing the off-guard position. Don’t be surprised if Coach Lopez plays a lineup of both Clinkscales and Johnson at times.
The leading candidate for shooting guard is Shane Gibson. A natural scorer and high volume shooter, he backs up his number of shots with an impressive shooting percentage from three point land (41%). Rookie Negus Webster-Chan has the potential to make an impact right away as he has size and range to be a threat for the Hurricanes and a regular rotation player. Webster-Chan also has the potential to be the NBL-C’s first player drafted to the NBA as he is draft eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft. An x-factor for the team is Joseph Bertrand. The University of Illinois alumni will fight for minutes on the wing and could be a bulldog player for the team.
CENTER/FORWARDS: PF Mike Glover, PF Anthony Simpson, SF Raymond Cowels, PF Billy White, C Kyle Hunt, PF Tony Criswell, SF Manock Lual, SF Antonio Garrett, SF Jamil Edward-Dudley.
Last season, Halifax had the most dominant and physically imposing front court in the NBLC. After losing Kevin Young and Canadian Liam McMorrow, the Hurricanes look to their new front court to pick up where they left off.
The first player signed by the new franchise, Mike Glover, will likely get the brunt of the minutes at power forward. Glover is a bruiser down low and can rebound at a high rate and defend well. He offers international experience and success at all levels of basketball.
Kyle Hunt, the team’s tallest player, is a big body with international and D-League experience that will help shore up opposing team’s big men. As more of the league’s teams look to get bigger players, Hunt’s size will be an asset for the Hurricanes.
Power forward Billy White and Center Anthony Simpson both have D-League experience, but both have found a great amount of success internationally. Both players are proven low post scorers with impressive international stats and resumes. Simpson is likely to start at the center position while White will provide key minutes off the bench behind Glover.
It’s hard to say if draft picks Antonio Garrett and Jamil Edward-Dudley will make the final roster. Both are capable players but, as history has proven, very few NBL Canada draft picks make final rosters.
COACH: Hugo Lopez
Coach Lopez has an international and domestic pedigree. Coaching at all levels, even spending time with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid as an assistant coach. Regardless of the talent Halifax puts on the floor, it will fall on Lopez as to how successful this team will be. Look for Coach Lopez to bring a mix of international and domestic style offense and defense to Halifax.
This team is very capable at being successful this season. With a strong mix of leadership and experience, Halifax could very well be a top team in the much improved Atlantic division. The team will have a learning period under Coach Lopez and the new front office. Halifax’s success lies with its front office and coaching staff and their ability to find the right offense and rotation for the players they have.