It’s been more than 300 days in the making, and Andre Levingston is dying to show you what he’s got.
“Man, I’m not gonna sleep at all tonight,” the Halifax Rainmen owner said on Thursday, the eve of his team’s home debut in the Premier Basketball League. “I’m too excited.”
Levingston has spent the past nine months overhauling the Rainmen, working feverishly to upgrade his roster and provide a more professional product for fans.
His team last hit the court at the Metro Centre on March 15 as a member of the American Basketball Association. But Levingston was unhappy with the direction of the ABA and went looking for a new home. He found one in the PBL.
The Rainmen are hoping to make a splash on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Metro Centre against the Quebec Kebs and on Sunday at 2 p.m. against the Montreal Sasquatch.
Levingston, whose enthusiasm is infectious, can’t stop talking about the level of basketball talent he’s assembled, particularly compared to what he had last year.
“Our second unit now could beat our starting unit last year,” he said. “Our second unit is more talented.”
Here’s a Coles Notes version of the Rainmen’s off-season moves. Levingston brought back last year’s two best players, Eric Crookshank and Brian Silverhorn. Then he signed ABA all-stars Rob Sanders and Cordell Jeanty, and picked up NCAA Division I standouts SirValiant Brown and Kevin Hammack. He also brought in NAIA all-American Glen Dandridge.
There’s a higher level of proven talent this time around.
“Last year, we didn’t have an Eric Crookshank sitting on the bench,” Crookshank said. “This year, if I leave, if Brian leaves, you have Rob Sanders or Glen Dandridge coming in. If somebody leaves, somebody else picks up the slack.”
But what the Rainmen are most excited about is the PBL, which has already shown signs of being a more organized league than the ABA. An obvious example is its website, which features up-to-date standings, scores and player statistics.
Other teams, such as Quebec and Montreal, also feature upgraded rosters, and the Rainmen don’t expect to see six-man teams, player-coaches or last-minute no-shows.
“The commitment and professionalism you see in this league is far greater than we experienced in the ABA,” said Rainmen head coach and general manager Rick Lewis.
So how good are the 2009 Halifax Rainmen?
“Championship,” Crookshank said simply. “We want a parade. Fans should be excited at the product we’ve put together.”
Crookshank makes a bold prediction
• On the eve of the Halifax Rainmen’s home debut at the Metro Centre, Eric Crookshank had a prediction.
“Put it this way: When you wake up Monday morning, we’ll be 4-0,” the 6-foot-8 Rainmen forward said.
The Rainmen make their home debut in the Premier Basketball League against the Quebec Kebs on Friday at 7 p.m. and face the Montreal Sasquatch on Sunday at 2 p.m.
They already beat both teams on the road last weekend, albeit by narrow two-point margins. But they did it without Crookshank and Rob Sanders, two of the team’s best players.
“Imagine us on the court, together, this weekend?” Crookshank said. “It’s going to be unbelievable.”
• Levingston’s statement to Metro Halifax earlier this week that season-ticket sales are at the 2,000 mark was incorrect, Rainmen public relations director Nancy Sheppard said yesterday. She said the total is slightly more than 1,000.
• Eleven members of the Rainmen are living together in a house in Dartmouth. The team has hired a chef.
“She takes care of us pretty good,” said forward Brian Silverhorn. “She’s pretty busy. It’s hard to feed (11) guys.”