Breaking News from the CBA #3

Talk about making something out of nothing – the Butte Daredevils were down to six players after forward, Jason Miller accepted an overseas contract, forward Lionel Davis was released, and guard Marcus Jefferson did not return to the team after Christmas break. In comes an almost fully stocked Oklahoma Cavalry, bolstered by the return of coach Micheal Ray Richardson, to the Butte Civic Center. Six Daredevils against Nine Cavalrymen. The Daredevils should have lost, right?

Think again.

The Daredevils bolted to an early 32-13 lead in the first quarter, and eventually won the December 29th contest 115-99. Benson Callier, a 6’6″ rookie guard from Western Kentucky, led the Daredevils with 29 points and 10 rebounds; another rookie, Blake Sholberg, led the team in rebounds with 13 boards. Aaron Cook, a 6’2″ guard from Hartford who last year was part of the ABA champion Vermont Frost Heaves lineup, had 19 points, 10 assists, and 7 steals. This victory helped Butte head coach Patrick O’Herron earn December Coach of the Month honors; in fact, in the month of December, Butte is 8-1 when injuries or overseas contracts force the team to employ a short-handed roster of eight men or less.

How about the turnaround story that is the Pittsburgh Xplosion. Last season, the Xplosion didn’t win their first contest until December 30th, blowing their first nine games before finally registering a victory. This season, the new-look Xplosion are already sporting a 9-9 record as the calendar year comes to a close, a dramatic single-season improvement. Part of the credit goes to Xplosion head coach Carlos Knox, who last season guided the CBA’s Indiana Alley cats to a solid run, sending four players (Shaun Fountain, Erick Barkley, Carl Edwards and J.J. SUllinger) to the CBA All-Star Game. Fountain, the 2007 CBA Newcomer of the Year (first-year player with prior professional experience) rejoined Knox with the Xplosion, and currently averages 16.3 points per game and 6.3 assists per game. The Xplosion have also found solid talent from local colleges, including forwards John DeGroat (Pittsburgh) and Lawrence Baker (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), and guards Chaz McCrommon (Robert Morris) and Carl Krauser (Pittsburgh). If nothing else, that’s four players who know where to get the best Primanti Bros. sandwiches.

In the career statistics department, Ronnie Fields of the Minot Skyrockets scored his 5,458th career CBA point this week, allowing him to pass Kelsey Weems and enter the CBA’s Top 10 points leaders. Fields, the Farragut Academy high school star, finished December with 5,471 career points. He still needs another 3,000 points to catch Georgia Tech standout and two-time CBA champion Tico Brown (8,538) for first place on the all-time CBA list; but Fields could catch ESPN analyst Tim Legler (5,604) for 8th place by the end of this season if he continues his stellar play.

With 222 wins on his resume, Yakama Sun Kings head coach Paul Woolpert is one victory behind Henry Bibby for 8th place on the CBA’s all-time coaching wins list. Notably, Bibby is the only coach in the CBA’s modern era to win a championship as both a player (1982, Lancaster Lightning) and as a head coach (1989, Tulsa Fast Breakers).

At the other end of the spectrum are the Rio Grande Valley Silverados, who just won their second game (and first home game) Sunday afternoon, against the Great Falls Explorers. But the CBA season for any team can change in a heartbeat – top players get called up to the NBA or receive overseas contracts, and teams can find a diamond in the rough that can change a team’s composition from cupcake to cobra in nothing flat.

The Continental Basketball Association has used several ball companies over its 62-year history, including well-known companies like Spalding, Wilson, MacGregor and Molten. Currently the CBA uses Wilson for its ball – no surprise, Wilson has worked with the CBA off and on for many seasons, starting in the 1960’s in the league’s earliest incarnation as the Eastern League. Wilson was the CBA’s rock during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and returned to the CBA in 2001, the year after Isiah Thomas decimated the league.

Today, the CBA is using the Wilson B0600 “Wave” basketball, a muscled ball that looks as if it got an injection of steroids – or at least whatever “super-soldier” serum Captain America took years ago. The ball, constructed of microfiber composite leather with a deep pebbled grain, has several grooves cut into the ball shell, creating ridges for more accurate ball control. Unlike the NBA’s failed microfiber ball experiment of 2006, Wilson plans to use the Wave ball in both the CBA and in college basketball; several stores are selling NCAA-branded Wilson Wave balls in both men’s sizes (29.5 inch circumference) and women’s sizes (28.5 inch circumference).

If this question ever comes up on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” you could win lots of money with the correct answer. Which member of the Baseball Hall of Fame was once a referee in the Continental Basketball Association? Answer: Tommy Lasorda. In the 1960’s, after his playing career ended, but before his managerial career began, Lasorda spent some seasons as a referee and official in the CBA’s earlier incarnation as the Eastern Professional Basketball League. Lasorda is not the only baseball player to have spent time in the CBA; current major leaguer Mark Hendrickson played for several seasons in the league.