Friday, January 23, 2015

2011-2012 NBLC Draft Retrospective

    Every year that there has been National Basketball League of Canada basketball, players from across North America have attended draft combine hosted by the league each offseason, looking to catch the eye of a coach or GM for any of the NBLC teams they can. The majority of these players become bench players, some never even make the roster. But every so often a team hits the jackpot, and gets a year-in, year-out contributor. NBLCNET's Chris Croucher will be taking a look at these drafts, looking at the NBLC careers of the players taken.

     The 2011-12 draft was a landmark draft for the league, producing draft picks who are still key players in the league today, and being the strongest draft class overall. I think the most surprising thing to me is that in a league with a lot of roster turnover, a lot of these guys stuck around the league for multiple years, with six of the 13 players eligible for this list being active in the league as recently as last season.

Before we start, some quick notes:
- I only included players who actually played a game in the league.
- The team name beside the player is the team that owned the pick, it doesn't account for any draft day trades.
- To put things in perspective, it's rare for a draft pick to play for a team, let alone become a contributor. Remember, team's have to make these picks based on a few days at the combine, making drafting an even more imperfect science. It means that while the success stories are big deals, most of the missed picks are inconsequential.

1st Round

1st Overall (Power): Morgan Lewis

    Probably the biggest success story from the NBLC's inaugural draft would be Morgan Lewis. The 6'4 guard was picked 1st overall by the Oshawa (now Mississauga) Power and immediately became one of the best scorers in the NBLC. Lewis was twice named to the NBLC All-Star Game. His career average of 15 points per game is a little misleadingly low, as he only averaged 11 a game on a stacked Lightning team in 2012-13. Lewis' best moment was during the "play-in" game between the Power and the Ottawa SkyHawks. Lewis led the underdog Power to a 103-100 victory and a playoff berth.

    Lewis signed a deal to play in the Saudi league prior to the 2014-15 season, leaving with two All-Star
Game appearances, a 2013-14 All-NBLC 2nd Team nomination, and a 2012-13 NBLC Championship. At the start of this NBLC season, Lewis sat 10th overall in career NBLC games played, 8th in both career assists and rebounds, and 6th on the NBLC all time scoring list.

2nd Overall (Storm): Justin Garris

    Garris only appeared in nine games for the (then) Summerside Storm, averaging five points a game, but only playing roughly eight minutes a game. Might have been better with more minutes, but a misstep for the Storm considering who went after.

3rd Overall (Lightning): Tyrone Levett

    The other big success from the 2011 Draft, Tyrone Levett didn't do much for London, the team that drafted him. The 6'5 forward was better suited to the east coast, spending time with Moncton, Halifax and Saint John. The big man has averaged 14 points and six rebounds in his NBLC career, usually appearing as a complimentary player to some of the leagues best teams, including a finals run in 2011-12 with Halifax. Levett may not have been as dynamic a scorer as Morgan Lewis, but he is consistently one of the better "3rd option" players in the league.

    Accolades include playing in the 2011-12 All-Star Game, being named an All-NBLC 2nd teamer in 2011-12, being named an NBLC First Team Defensive Player in 2011-12 and being named to the 2011-12 All-NBLC Playoff team. As of the start of the season, Levett is the all time leader in NBLC Career games played, 2nd all time in scoring and 5th all time in rebounds.

4th Overall (Miracles): Darrell Wonge

    Another strong pick in the top 5, Darrell Wonge was, like Lewis, one of the best scorers in the league right out of the draft. Wonge played two years in the league for the Moncton Miracles, and finished among the league's top 10 scorers both years. Wonge was a deadly 3-point shooter, even leading the league with 39% shooting beyond the arc. Amazingly, Wonge never made any of the "end-of-year" teams despite being one of the best players during his two seasons.

     Despite the apparent snubs, the career numbers are still very impressive. Only 22nd in all time games played, Wonge still managed to crack the top 10 in career points, sitting 8th all time, and 2nd in career 3-pointers made.

5th Overall (Mill Rats): Jerome Brown

    Played 22 games split between the Mill Rats and the Power, playing 13 minutes a game and averaging 5 points per game, while shooting a less than sterling 25% from the field during the 2011-12 season.

7th Overall (Kebs): Tristan Martin

    Never played for the Kebs, but did average nearly 10 points per game for the Miracles, before a switch to London saw his PPG drop to 2 points a game. Probably due to his minutes per game dropping from 18 in Moncton, to 7 in London.

2nd Round

8th Overall (Power): Kevin Francis

    Has played 3 seasons in the NBLC with the Power, Mill Rats and A's. Was never a star, but a strong contributor to his team at each stop. Interestingly enough, he played mostly on the interior, as 6'7 was very tall for the league at the time. But as the talent level of the league went up, he transitioned into more of a stretch forward type, shooting 38% from beyond the arc with the A's last season. Has averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds a game for his career. Sits 8th all time in games played, and 25th in career points and 11th in career rebounds.

9th Overall (Storm): Chris Cayole

    Played in the first two NBLC seasons with the Storm before returning this season to the Rainmen. A gifted three point threat, he shot 43% from 3 point land before this season. Came off the bench for the Storm both years, including a finals appearance in 2012-13. His career games played is lower than you'd expect because of injuries. Has averaged 10 points per game over his career. As one of the Canadian players, he actually played in two All Star games. Was part of a trade just this off-season involving Kevin Francis, the man picked just before him.

10th Overall (Lightning): Issac Kuon

    Played 2 seasons with the Mill Rats and the Express. His first season was far more successful than his last, averaging 8 points a game off the bench for the Mill Rats, and playing in the 2011-12 All Star game as one of the Canadian players. Fell off in Windsor, playing in 29 games but only averaging two points per game.

11th Overall (Miracles): Kevin Loiselle

    Based on value, this may be the best pick in the draft......had he played a game for Moncton.
Loiselle re-entered the draft in 2012-13 and has been a key rotational piece for the Windsor Express since joining the league, coming off the bench with career averages of nine points and eight rebounds a game, while providing toughness and grit. Was named to the All-Defensive 1st team in 2012-13, and named to the All-Canadian team in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and won a championship with the Express in 2013-14. Sits 15th in NBLC career games played and 4th all time in rebounds and is still going strong for the Express

12th Overall (Mill Rats): Sherton Sanderson

    Played a grand total of 12 minutes over two games with the Mill Rats, scoring five points. Sits 4,919,247 in career points, probably.

13th Overall (Rainmen): Papa Oppong

    Played three years with Halifax, Oshawa and Windsor as a solid wing defender. His first season was a dud, but turned it on in his second year, averaging 12 points a game and being named as one of the Canadians for the All Star game. Won a championship off the bench with the Express during the 2013-14 season as well. Averaged eight points and four rebounds a game for his career. Ranks 4th all time in games played.

3rd Round

17th Overall (Lightning): Nick Lother

    Played in 28 games with London and Moncton during the 2011-12 season, averaging three points per game during that time. Most notable for being the only player from the 3rd round of the 2011-12 draft class to appear in a game.