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After a rocky end to the playoffs, it can be easy to forget that when the dust settled, the Windsor were named the 2014-2015 NBLC champions. This after finishing with a league-best record (21-11) and points against average (101.1). However, the road to a three-peat will be a long one for the Express this season, with a big turnover from last year. As VP of Basketball Operations Bill Jones says, it presents a new opportunity. “We have the chance to bring some new blood into our organization. Guys are hungry for a championship and the opportunity to play for us.”
With only six players returning, new players will have to step up, and returning teammates can expect an increased role going forward. Keep in mind the players listed below make up the Express training camp roster, and are not necessarily reflective of how the final team will look.
The Windsor Express took as big an offseason hit as you can get in professional sports: losing the league MVP. Quinnel Brown, who averaged 20.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG and just over a steal a game, has signed a deal with Larre Borges of the Liga Uruguaya de Basketball. A huge blow for the team, and the league as well, will present possible scoring issues for the Express.
On the defensive end, Windsor will likely also miss Kevin Loiselle, who signed with London. The Canadian pulled down over 6 rebounds per game, and his length made for plenty of opportunities for blocks and steals while on the floor.
To try and compensate for scoring, the Express signed F Maurice Bolden. Bolden has already shown potential, scoring a team-high 23 points in Windsor’s preseason game against Lima Express.
With their first round pick in this year’s draft, the Express decided to go with shooting guard Derek Thompson. The 6’3’’ 26-year-old from Detroit played for nearby Eastern Michigan University, averaging just over 11 points a game in his senior year. It will be interesting to see what kind of role Thompson will take on with his first year in the league.
GUARDS: Tony Bennett, Adrian Moss, Raheem Singleton, Kyle Anderson, Derek Thompson, Josh Collins, Manny Hendrix, Dane Smith, Rotimi Osuntola Jr.
There aren't many things certain in life, but you can bank on getting constant effort and heart from PG Tony Bennett. Bennett finished top three in the league in steals (1.62) and assists (6.47), and has been a staple in the NBLC nearly since its inception.
In keeping with Windsor`s efforts to bring up local talent, guards Josh Collins and Rotimi Osuntola Jr. to training camp. Both played for the University of Windsor, with Collins being a teammate of F Jahmal McQueen in 2011-2012.
CENTERS/FORWARDS: Chris Commons, Kirk Williams Jr., Jahmal McQueen, Maurice Bolden, Zach Valliere, Shaquille Keith, Shane Ross, John Hawkins
Despite staying on the roster, you can almost call Deandre Thomas another offseason loss for the Express. While playing over the summer, Thomas hurt his knee, and required surgery on his patella tendon. Staff have spoke with Thomas ahead of the start of the season, and will be hoping to have him back in the lineup before the playoffs.
But the frontcourt is where the Express have the pleasure of welcoming some key players. Three-time NBLC all-star Chris Commons is back, as well as University of Windsor product Jahmal McQueen.
In what possibly ended up being the biggest in-season turnaround story of the year, Kirk Williams Jr. will be back to provide quality minutes off the bench. Williams had a phenomenal playoff run, capped off with being named the championship MVP last year.
COACH: Tony Jones
Another changing of the guard, in a sense, comes at the coaching position. With last year`s head coach Bill Jones serving his suspension, the organization has chosen his brother, Tony, to lead the Windsor Express this year. With Jones still serving as VP of basketball operations, and the two growing up together, don't expect the Express`philosophy or game plan to change too much compared to last year.
While the Windsor Express roster took a big blow losing the NBLC MVP, the core starters and bench players have returned on the hunt for a three-peat. While scoring could be an early issue, expect the flow of the offense to still be there. Question marks will be how some new pieces will fit into Windsor`s championship picture, and which of the Express`returning players will emerge as the team`s star.