The Halifax Rainmen are heading into one of the biggest games in franchise history without their franchise player.

Forward Eric Crookshank will not travel south for Thursday’s game against the Puerto Rico Capitanes, an unbeaten team that sits a half game ahead of the Rainmen (5-1) atop the Premier Basketball League standings.

The 31-year-old and his girlfriend are expecting their first child this week and he will remain in Halifax.

“She’s due at any moment and we thought it would be important as an organization for him to stay home,” said Rainmen owner Andre Levingston.

“His teammates thought this was too special of a moment and it’s bigger than basketball.”
It will be a huge loss on the court.

The six-foot-eight Oakland native is one of three players in the PBL averaging a double-double, with 10.2 points and 13.8 rebounds.

He’s been a leader and a game-changer on the defensive end.

Levingston said Crookshank has been playing the best basketball “of his life,” but added that six-foot-five small forward Jevohn Shepherd is a player expected to fill the void.

Shepherd, a 23-year-old who completed a four-year career at the University of Michigan last spring, dropped 14 points off the bench on Sunday and has plenty of promise.

“Hopefully he can step up,” Levingston said.

“We think we have interchangeable players who can fill the gap.”

Crookshank is expected to return on Sunday, when the Rainmen host the unbeaten Rochester RazorSharks.

Forward Marlowe Currie and guards Devon Norris and Lonnell Shuler-Jones also will not make the trip.

In other news, Rainmen guard Tony Bennett was named PBL player of the week after a 49-point weekend.