|Bullet News /Zach Dadson|
The Niagara River Lions joined the National Basketball League of Canada in April 2015. The team
will play their home games at the Meridian Centre and since their arrival there has been a growing buzz in St. Catharines and the greater Niagara community. In the months since the announcement, the team appears to be doing everything right by building positive relationships and strong ties to Niagara’s not-for-profit community and establishing important business partnerships.
After a five-week training camp, the River Lions announced the 12 players who made the team’s inaugural season roster on December 18. As the team has not played a game outside of training camp it’s not clear how minutes will be distributed amongst all 12 players but after much speculation, fans finally have players they can root for and the team’s identity is becoming clearer.
GUARDS: Greg Carter, Tramar Sutherland, Clinton Springer-Williams, Sammy Zeglinksi, Adam Blazek, Marcus Lewis, Jonathan Dunn
Greg Carter (born in Ottawa) played collegiate basketball at Lakehead University and for Toronto 3D with fellow River Lions teammate Tramar Sutherland. In 2012-13 Carter averaged 9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4 assists for the Lakehead Thunderwolves and was a two-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Defensive Player of the Year. Carter was also named Ontario University Athletics Defensive MVP four times as a student. Greg Carter’s impact on the game is seen through his tremendous hustle and dedication to the game. He’s always willing to sacrifice himself and his body for the good of the team.
Tramar Sutherland (born in Toronto) played for the NBL of Canada Moncton Miracles in 2014/15 and is joining the River Lions after scoring 9.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in his role as Miracles sixth man. Sutherland played 65 NCAA games at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with highlights including winning the Sun Belt Tournament in 2011 and regular season championship in 2012.
Clinton Springer-Williams is familiar with basketball in Niagara having played for Coach Ken Murray at Brock University. In his freshman season at Brock he averaged 21.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Springer-Williams later played for CIS basketball powerhouse Carlton University where he won two National Championships. In 2014/15 Springer-Williams played for the London Lightning, a model NBL of Canada franchise that has won two league championships in the league’s four seasons.
Sammy Zeglinski played for the University of Virginia (NCAA Division 1) for five seasons and most recently played for the NBL of Canada’s Island Storm (Prince Edward Island) where the 6’1” guard averaged 10.1 PPG, 7.1 APG and 1.3 steals. Zeglinski’s professional basketball experience extends beyond the NBL of Canada having played a season in Iceland’s Dominos League Championship and the Austria-A Bundesliga.
Adam Blazek was a three-time All-American, two time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Winter Top 10 selection and National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court member at Gannon University (Erie, Pennsylvania) where he played for four years. Blazek, who finished his collegiate career in early 2015, enters the NBL of Canada as Gannon University’s leader in steals (243) and fourth all time in 3 pointers (190).
Marcus Lewis (Streamwood, Illinois) played collegiate basketball at Parkland College and South Suburban College before finishing his college career at Eastern Kentucky where the 6’4” guard started 34 games as a senior averaging 9.8 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
6’3” 185lb shooting guard Jonathan Dunn (Toledo, OH) rounds out the team’s guards.
CENTRES/FORWARDS: Mike Allison, Dylan Edgar, Logan Stutz, Da’Quan Cook, Russ Conley
Mike Allison (Lynden, ON) started for the Mississauga Power (NBL of Canada) in 2014/15 where he averaged 7.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 22 minutes per game. Allison’s professional basketball experience also includes a stint in the British Basketball League in 2013/14 where he ranked first in the league with 2.3 blocks per game. Mike Allison played four seasons at the University of Maine where he was named to the America East Conference All-Defensive Team (2012, 2013), College Sports Madness Preseason All-America East Second Team (2013), and All-American East Third Team (2012). Allison led the America East Conference in blocked shots in 2012 and 2014.
6’10” Dylan Edgar played his collegiate career at Shippensburg University (Pennsylvania). Edgar appeared in 105 games for the Raiders where he amassed 1,199 points and 722 boards with a 57% career shooting percentage.
Logan Stutz is a 6’9” forward from Kansas City, MO. After finishing his collegiate career at Washburn University in 2011 Stutz spent four years overseas playing in leagues in Austria, Germany, Bulgaria and Sweden.
6’8” forward Da’Quan Cook played collegiate basketball at St. Bonaventure (upstate New York) where he started 61 of 62 games as a Junior and Senior. As a senior in 2011/12, Cook averaged 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game for the Bonnies who went 16-15.
6’10” centre Russ Conley (Greenville, PA) played college basketball at Penn State Behrend for four years. Conley started all 57 games in his Junior and Senior years averaging 18 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Conley is a good free throw shooter for a centre averaging 80% from the charity stripe sinking 229 free throws (4 per game) in his final two seasons at Penn State Behrend.
COACH: Ken Murray
Perhaps the team’s biggest asset heading into the season is Coach/General Manager Ken Murray. Coach Murray is intimately familiar with basketball in the Niagara region having led Brock University’s basketball program to two CIS National Championships in his 20 years as Head Coach. Coach Murray holds the Brock University record for most wins as a Head Coach.
Coach Ken Murray’s style places a great importance on the point guard position. “I have to have a point guard that is an extension of me – one that I can trust” Murray said in an interview early in the off-season.
While wins will be an important measuring stick for the River Lions’ success in 2015/16, its ability to establish a strong fan base and sell tickets will be the true indicator of the team’s future success in the National Basketball League of Canada. The team will play their home games at the new, state of the art Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines and hope to provide fans a great night of entertainment for a low cost.
A .500 record, chance for success in the playoffs and a couple of sold out games (including the home opener against the London Lightning on December 27) will mark a positive first year for the franchise.