November 4, 2012

On Basketball: Red Claws close up holes with the D-League draft

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Maine Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor stood in the team's "war room" Friday night and pointed to the television, which was showing the Boston Celtics' surprising 99-88 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"The only negative of the night," Taylor said.

For the rest of Friday, Taylor was pleased as Maine drafted seven players -- and traded for another -- to bring its training camp roster to 16.

Taylor said his coaching staff -- along with Austin Ainge and Dave Lewin from the Celtics -- approached the draft like any other competition.

"We set up a good game plan going into the draft and executed it pretty well," Taylor said, in his best coach-speak. "We addressed our needs. We got some experienced D-League players.

"We hope it turns into an exciting team for the fans to watch."

It is a veteran group. Of the 16 players coming to camp, which starts Nov. 12, only four are rookies. All four are point guards, hoping to back up first-round draft pick Shelvin Mack.

 

MACK'S AVAILABILITY was a surprise since he appeared part of the Washington Wizards' plans. They drafted him in the second round of last year's NBA draft and used him as a backup last year.

According to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, the 6-foot-3 Mack struggled during the summer league. And "despite some improvement and recording 4.1 points and 2.8 assists over eight preseason contests, Mack continued to show growing pains when handed the keys to the offense."

The Wizards' cut is the Red Claws' gain.

"We're really excited about Mack," Taylor said. "We had him as our top guard (on the draft board). We love his combination of athleticism and strength, and his NBA experience."

Before coming to the NBA, Mack played three years for Butler and stood out in the NCAA tournament, as the Bulldogs made appearances in two championship games.

"We love the fact that he was a winner and played in big games in college," Taylor said.

 

THE POINT GUARD competition in training camp will begin with Mack, with the four rookies competing for the No. 2 job.

One of them will make the Red Claws. Not only does the team want a backup point guard, every D-League team must have a rookie on its roster.

Maine's one drafted rookie (fourth round), 5-10 Cervante Burrell of Seattle University, averaged 4.7 assists last season.

The other three rookie point guards earned an invite after trying out with the Red Claws in September -- 6-foot Raheem Singleton of the University of Maine, 6-4 Farnold Degand from North Carolina State, and 5-10 DaQuan Brooks from Western Connecticut.

 

THE SHOOTING guard position features two players returning to the Red Claws, 6-5 Xavier Silas and 6-6 Champ Oguchi (who played for Maine in 2010-11). Oguchi can also play small forward.

A pair of shooting guards were drafted -- 6-5 Jeremiah Rivers (son of Celtics Coach Doc Rivers) and 6-2 Corey Allmond, who played at Sam Houston State).

 

POST PLAYERS include returning 6-8 forward Chris Wright, 6-10 center Chris Ayers (acquired in a trade with Reno for a second-round draft pick), and two "affiliated" players sent to Maine by the Celtics, after they were cut by Boston: 6-8 forward Micah Downs and 7-foot Brian Cusworth.

Three other post players were drafted: 6-6 forward Omar Reed, 6-9 forward Ron Allen and 7-foot center Scott VanderMeer.

 

YOU CAN ADD at least one more player to the mix. One of Boston's first-round draft picks, 7-foot center Fab Melo, is expected to play often for the Red Claws.

 

KRIS JOSEPH is another possible Celtic for Red Claws games. Joseph, a 6-7 forward, was Boston's second-round draft pick. In Boston's first two games, he has played a total of three minutes,

As Boston's D-League affiliate, Maine can receive up to three Celtics a game -- an unlikely possibility -- to add to the 10 players the Red Claws can carry on their roster.

 

THE IOWA ENERGY, who drafted former Brunswick High and Florida State standout Ralph Mims in the fourth round, come to Portland for two games this season, Jan. 18-19.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH

 

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