Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016-17 Saint John Riptide Season Preview

With the 2016-17 National Basketball League of Canada now underaway, the Saint John Riptide roster has taken shape as they begin a new era in the port city with a new ownership group at the helm. The Riptide made a smart decision in bringing back a familiar face to run the basketball side of things.

Coach Rob Spon, who is now also the team's general manager, has put together a solid mix of NBL Canada veterans and newcomers. Among the roster are two former NBL Canada MVPs, a pair of former draft picks of the Saint John franchise, and four newcomers to the NBLC. As well, the Riptide have four members of their 2015-16 squad back this season.

After finishing with a 25-15, good for second place in the Atlantic Division, the Riptide(formerly Mill Rats) went on to beat the Moncton Miracles in a best-of-five first round matchup. However they would hit a brick wall in the second round in the form of the Halifax Hurricanes. Saint John would be swept 4-0 by the eventual NBL Canada champions losing all-but-one of the games by more than 25 points. Spon sat in his coaches locker room following the game two loss in Halifax knowing already how he wanted to build his team the next time around.


* - Denotes Canadian player

BACK COURT: Anthony Anderson, Jabs Newby*, Darin Mency, Craig Foster, Orlando Palmer*

The Riptide have former NBL Canada MVP and the face of the franchise Anthony Anderson back for another year. Known as Double A, he is an offensive force for the Riptide with the numerous team and league records he holds. 

Sharp shooting guard Darin Mency is another name on the long list of familiar faces on the roster. The Hagerstown, Maryland native put up just under 14 points per contest when he last played in Saint John during the 2014-15 season. Newby, who returns for his third stint in Saint John, averaged three points in the 30 games he appeared in for Saint John. The Brampton, Ontario product is a former first round draft pick of the port city squad but was traded to Mississauga for Alex Johnson during the 2014-14 season. 

Craig Foster is another interesting piece of this Saint John back court. He is the protege of former London Lightning guard DeAnthony Bowden, who was a teammate of current Riptide star Gabe Freeman. Foster, a native american, will play his first season as a pro after spending his college days at Cameron University. A late addition to the team as their fourth Canadian player, Palmer played AUS basketball for the Holland College Hurricanes and is also a rookie pro.


FRONT COURT: Gabe Freeman, Anthony Stover, Brian Addison, Chris Early, Olu Famutimi*, Haakim Johnson, Jahmal McQueen*

Towards the end of last year’s playoffs, Coach Rob Spon said that he would build a team around proven winners the next time around.

He has done just that with three members of his 2015 Rochester Razorsharks, a team that went undefeated and took home the PBL championship, coming to Saint John. Those players are Gabe Freeman, Anthony Stover, and Haakim Johnson will reunite in the port city. Getting Gabe and Anthony back is huge for this franchise. Freeman was the team's leader in points, rebounds, and assists per game last year while Stover lead the team in and set the league record for most in a season with 132 in 33 regular season games.

Johnson most recently played in Damman, Saudi Arabia with Al Nahada Sports Club After helping his team, Ostioneros de Guaymas, to the CIBACOPA Finals in Mexico for the first time in team history.

Acquired for the 7th overall pick in a trade with the Island Storm at the NBL Canadian Draft, six-foot-ten power forward Brian Addison joins the Riptide with plenty of experience in the league. The University of Buffalo standout was named NBL Canada Player of the Week in February 2016, the result of a 26 point, 10 rebound game against the Moncton Miracles.

NBL Canada rookie Chris Early was impressive in camp as well as in the team’s lone exhibition tilt on December 18th where he led the Riptide offence with 18 points. A six-foot-eight, 225-pound shooting guard/small forward, Early played his college years at UTC including his senior year when he shot 46% from three-point range. He is described as a big wing player with very good ball handling and shooting abilities.

The Riptide also welcome two familiar canadians from past year’s as Olu Famutimi and Jahmal McQueen have returned to the organization. Famutimi suited up for 22 games last season averaging 8.09 points per game in the process. McQueen was originally selected 5th by Saint John in the first round of the 2014-2015 NBL Canada draft. He was traded to Windsor Express that same season where he spent two seasons and was a member of the NBL Canada 2014-2015 Championship team.


OUTLOOK:

With several veterans of the league and some intriguing new faces, the Riptide should once again be in the Atlantic division playoff picture. Gabe Freeman and Anthony Anderson should put up 20-plus points night in and night again this season while the supporting cast in Saint John looks to be a reliable group for coach Spon.

Just like he said in his locker room during last year's second round playoff series, Spon has built his team around proven winners and sprinkled in some talented newcomers in their to make for a roster that has the potential to make a run at the championship if they can build chemistry and mesh as a cohesive unit.

Atlantic: Cape Breton | Moncton | Halifax | Island Central: London | Kitchener/Waterloo | Windsor | Orangeville