716ers set post-tryout roster heavy on local talent - INTERVIEW
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 04, 2013 @ 11:20am
Twenty-five local basketball players gathered at Tapestry Charter School last Saturday, eager to make an impression on head coach Tawan Slaughter and the rest of the Buffalo 716ers’ brass.
The majority of the participants were names not wholly unfamiliar to Western New York basketball fans, as former St. Joe’s Collegiate Institute and Daemen College star Devon Dawson, Fredonia State alum and Los Angeles Pro Summer League standout Amir Billups and Olean Huskies’ legend Zach Moore gathered among athletes focused on demonstrating their worthiness as Independent Basketball Association-caliber players.
Slaughter narrowed the 716ers’ roster to 16, and while she admitted the group of players is open to change, the names below are at least a start in fielding a competitive squad to begin March’s professional season.
At first glance, height would appear to be a major issue facing the 716ers, but Slaughter’s style of play somewhat mitigates the lack of an imposing frontcourt. Dedicated to an up-tempo, high-scoring offense with a full-court press defensively, the organization values exceptional conditioning and confidence in transition. It’s a style of play that can oscillate between highly entertaining and alarmingly sloppy, but for minor league basketball, it’s better than a Wisconsin-esque half-court style.
Zach Moore, who comes from a strong basketball family (he played for his father at Pitt-Bradford before attending St. Bonaventure for a year), impressed Slaughter with his inside-outside game.
“I was shocked that he could step in and play any role he wanted to,” Slaughter (pictured, right of photo) said of Moore, who began working with the forwards before stepping out and knocking down open looks from the perimeter.
Judging by his abbreviated stint with the now defunct Buffalo Warriors, Moore’s diversified game has made him a much more dangerous scorer.
The star of the 716ers’ trip to the Los Angeles Summer Pro League where he knocked down eight three-pointers in his first game, Billups—who will also travel to Kansas for a tryout for a Mexican professional team (don’t ask why they hold these tryouts in the Midwest)—will serve as an accurate, if sometimes streaky, outside shooter.
A former standout at nearby Medaille College, Mogavero (pictured below, left) joins Moore and Ivan Davis as ex-Buffalo Warriors, while Matthew Tucholski—deemed the 716ers’ Most Improved Player during the trip to LA—will compete for a major role in the paint.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of tryouts, however, was Toronto guard Justin Alliman, who was referred to the 716ers by Seneca College (Toronto) men’s basketball coach Bill Crowdis—who played a major role in the 716ers’ short trip to Canada this summer. A 6’0 point guard from Memorial University, Alliman drew praise from Slaughter for his conditioning and shooting ability—two traits crucial to the 716ers’ preferred style.
A slew of athletes who impressed with the 716ers this summer—whether it was in Los Angeles, at the local summer pro leagues or through the Canada trip—are still pursuing overseas opportunities.
Bouncy guard Ashton Brown will enter the D-League draft in November, D-League prospect Ajay Rutledge will suit up for the Rochester Rage—another team owned by Slaughter—while SPL star Brandon Armstrong, Freeman Pinkney, Greg Gamble, Devon Phillip and Javon Slaughter all appear to be pursuing other opportunities.
Moving forward, Slaughter has scheduled two practices per week for the 716ers beginning on Oct. 10, while the team will also workout twice per week at Maximum Performance Sports Training in Cheektowaga. All players will likely carry regular employment outside of the 716ers as well.
Exhibition games are in the works as well, as Buffalo will host the Akron Heat of the Ohio Exposure Basketball League (which, oddly, includes teams named the Ohio Crumbsnatchers and the Pittsburgh Rebles (sic?)) at Tapestry Charter School on Dec. 7, with a Dec. 14 scrimmage planned against a team from Toronto. Slaughter expects the 716ers to play two scrimmages per month from December through February.