Players hopeful of making the Oshawa Power roster for the first National Basketball League of Canada (NBCL) season will have an opportunity to showcase their talent and make an impression on coach Mark Strickland at a two-day combine this weekend.
Each participant is required to pay $100 for the tryouts at Durham College from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Gary Durrant, the club’s vice-president of basketball operations, expects close to 100 players to show up over the two days.
“This is an open camp for players from Canada, the United States and other parts of the world to come in and show us what they have got,” said Jamaican-born Durrant, a former National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Slam Dunk champion and McDonald’s All-American who attended Florida Atlantic University and played pro ball in Europe.
“This is going to be a very competitive and intense two days and the players will be engaged in drills, scrimmages and individual evaluations. We are looking for the best players to fill out our roster and that process starts here. Our intention is to come away with at least 17 players who we will take to camp. If the coach is not satisfied with the quality of players he sees, the process will continue when we go to camp around mid-October.”
The club will also play two exhibition games before the season-opener on October 30 against Quebec at Laval University. The home-opener is on November 3 against Moncton Miracles at the General Motors Centre.
Durrant said the club’s three draftees will have to compete for spots on the 12-man roster.
The club drafted American guard Morgan Lewis with the first overall pick and Canadians Kevin Francis and Brian Labranche in the second and third rounds.
“These players are our priority since we hold their rights, but they will have to come to camp and earn their spots like everyone else,” said Durrant, a York Region District School Board student & community liaison officer. “We have not signed any players as yet.”
Each of the seven franchises has a $150,000 salary cap to work with. The top players can earn between $6,000 and $8,000 and the average monthly salary is about $3,500.
Co-owner Isaac Olowolafe Jr. is anxiously looking forward to the combine having missed last month’s two-day event at Seneca College Sports Centre where 180 players took part in skill testing and scrimmages for an invitation to the league’s inaugural draft. He was in Barbados on business.
“This is going to be my first chance to see our coach at work on the floor and some of the players who will be vying to play for us,” said Olowolafe, the chief executive officer of Dream Fund Holdings and co-owner with his father of a real estate firm. “These are exciting times coming up for me and everyone associated with the franchise.”
Olowolafe, who celebrated his 28th birthday last July, was introduced to the business opportunity four months ago.
“A friend made the suggestion and I jumped at it because I saw this as an opportunity to be part of history,” said the University of Toronto economics graduate who last year pledged $25,000 to establish the university’s largest endowment fund for students in the African Studies program. “This is a chance to be part of a league that’s building from the ground up and you can’t put a cost to what we are achieving here. In the next 10 to 20 years, people will look back and see that we had the first overall pick in the league’s first ever draft. That’s history and it cannot be erased.
“The franchise’s location is also appealing in that Oshawa is a growing city, it’s relatively close to Toronto and it is the cheapest city to buy into which means there is a lot of growth potential. That means there are real estate opportunities to be taken advantage of. When I weighed the pros and cons and the risks and growth opportunities, it definitely made sense for me to part of this franchise.”
Olowolafe said he’s extremely happy to be part of the ownership group that includes actor Mark Taylor, industrial scaffolding businessman Lee-El Harding and Uptown Communications president Henry Chow.
“It helps that each of us understands business and we have been pretty successful at it,” added the long time Toronto Raptors fan and soccer enthusiast. “We now have to translate that success into basketball because, if not managed properly, it will fail like any other business endeavour. One of the things we have to do as owners is bring on board sponsors and individuals to support the growth of the team.”
The Oshawa Power and the other franchises each play 36 games with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs next March.