During the pre-season, Eric Crookshank got lazy and let his man get to the hoop for an easy basket.
It was a scene that was all too familiar for the Halifax Rainmen last season, when making the highlight reel on offence was the priority and defence was an afterthought.
But Crookshank didn’t get away with it. Teammate Rob Sanders, a newcomer, was in his face immediately.
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“He’s like, ‘Crookshank! What are you doing? That’s your man! That’s you!’” said Crookshank, the star of last year’s team. “He holds you accountable. When you’re accountable for your mistakes, it makes the whole team better.”
Defensive accountability is critical for the Rainmen. Nobody questions their athleticism and offensive ability, which oozes past the starting five and onto the bench.
But can the Rainmen shut opposing teams down? Last season, they allowed 120 or more points 11 times and went 12-20. The American Basketball Association’s quirky rules had something to do with that, but so did a lax attitude.
“Defence wasn’t on anyone’s mind, not even myself,” Crookshank admitted. “Maybe Kadiri Richard, but I was like, ‘I wanna score.’ This year, I’m gonna take more pride in defence.”
Owner Andre Levingston — who admits he gets as big a thrill watching Bruce Bowen as he does out of Kobe Bryant — said he built the team with players who can defend. Among the standouts are guards Jimmy Twyman and Zach Ramey and forwards David Bailey and Cordell Jeanty.
“You’re not going to see a team come in and score 140 points this year, that’s for sure,” Levingston said. “If that happens, I’m going to have a big problem with that.”
The Rainmen have a deep bench and intend to use it, and fresh legs usually mean a more tenacious defence.
“We’re gonna burn the candle at both ends,” Levingston said. “Don’t go in there and save nothin’.”
It’s all talk for now. The Rainmen weren’t happy with their defensive play in a pair of road wins last weekend and are looking to atone at the Metro Centre this weekend.
“We speak on that every day,” Twyman said. “But we can’t just speak on it. We have to do it in games. If we do, I think we can blow this league out of the water.”