“Building Amazing Now”
This slogan is part of a new media partnership the Mill Rats reached with Arrowfoot Productions, but not only that, it represents exactly what GM Ian McCarthy and Coach Rob Spon are trying to do in the Port City this season.
With the haunting memories of game 5 against the Island Storm at Eastlink Center still fresh in their minds, the Mill Rats are building for a chance to erase that memory and replace it with one involving a trophy and a banner.
Despite losing a some of their key players from last year’s roster with Kenny Jones playing overseas and Alex Johnson signing with the Halifax Hurricanes, Saint John has filled those holes with several key signings. The first being the addition of Gabe Freeman, a former NBL Canada MVP and a member of the undefeated Rochester Razorsharks of the PBL last season, a team coached by Rob Spon. Ian McCarthy also brought back the face of the organization in Anthony Anderson, also a former MVP who holds the league record for field goals in a season with 314 in 2013-14. The Mill Rats also added NBL Canada veteran Al Stewart this off-season. Stewart has played four seasons in the league including three with the Island Storm and the latest coming with London last year. With the Lightning, Stewart contributed 10.2 points and 4.1 assists per contest. He was also named an NBLC All-Star in 2013, and was named the NBLC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
GUARDS: Doug Herring Jr., Anthony Anderson, Dave Seagers, Al Stewart, Robinson Odoch-Opong, Corey Allmond
Another former Mill Rat is also returning to Saint John in Doug Herring Jr. The former NBL Canada All-Star last played in the NBLC in 2013-14 when the Mill Rats won the Atlantic Division title. The Poughkeepsie, New York native played with the Bristol Flyers in the United Kingdom last season. Herring averaged 18 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists before an ACL tear prematurely ended his season after just 12 games in the British Basketball League. He had surgery in England and returned the United States where he rehabbed and returned to competitive basketball in the spring.
Darren Moore and Corey Allmond decided to follow Rob Spon and their Rochester Razorsharks teammate Gabe Freeman to the Port City for the 2015-16 season. Moore, a six-foot-seven center from Chicago, Illinois, averaged 8.4 points and 6.67 rebounds per game in the PBL last season.
Allmond, a six-foot-two guard, was a pivotal player for Spon’s Razorsharks last year putting up an average of 20 points and 50% shooting from the field.
Canadian Odoch-Opong is relatively unknown on the in basketball circles coming from Quebec City, but played his college basketball in the U.S. at Rogers State.
FORWARDS/CENTRES: Ahman Fells, Denny McDonald, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Gabe Freeman, Peter Wedge, Marlin Mason, Darren Moore, Ricky Volcy, Braxton Dupree
Also returning to the Mill Rats, both members of last seasons roster, are Canadians Peter Wedge and Ricky Volcy. After joining the team midway through the season, Volcy played 15 games averaging 9.73 points per game while shooting 39.7% from beyond the arc.
The two Canadian players mentioned above are six-foot-six forward Denny McDonald from Mississauga, Ontario and Robinson Odoch-Opong, a six-foot-four guard from Quebec City, Quebec.
Denny McDonald, one of the Canadians on the roster, played university basketball at Trinity Western University where he put up an average of 10.8 points and 5.63 rebounds per game.
COACH: Rob Spon
The veteran coach is back with the club, fresh off of an undefeated season and championship with Rochester. While he’s yet to take a team to a championship, Spon has built a reputation as a solid NBLC coach. He led Quebec to a third place finish in 2011-12, missed out of the playoffs by one game with Halifax in 2012-13, and led Mill Rats to the best record in the Atlantic division in 2013-14. However, Spon has been unable to direct any NBLC club to postseason success, falling in the first round of both playoff appearances. That will likely be a concern for general manager Ian McCarthy as the club progresses through the 2015-16 season.
Saint John are going all-in with proven NBLC talent this year, with Freeman, Anderson and Stewart all set to feature for the underperforming Mil Rats. However, as we’ve seen before (specifically with Freeman in London the second time), this league’s progression has a tendency to leave once-proven players in the dust. Regardless, the Mill Rats have put together a strong squad that promises to be one of the best in the league this year.