With a packed Metro Centre set to greet them, the Halifax Rainmen are ready to hit the hardwood.
The Rainmen, after more than two weeks of gruelling practices and intra-squad scrimmages, will end a nine-month off-season when they host the Manchester Millrats on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Premier Basketball League pre-season action.
A revamped 13-man roster featuring just three returnees from last season and five first-year pros will be unveiled to what could be the largest crowd in franchise history, courtesy of a promotion that handed out 10,000 free tickets.
“We’ve been working hard since the first day of training camp,” said guard Lonnell Shuler-Jones, a rookie pro. “I’m excited. It’s going to be a great experience and I hope the fans love it and I hope they keep coming out every night.”
With so many new faces, head coach Les Berry and owner Andre Levingston will use the pre-season to determine how to divvy up floor time, with starting jobs still up for grabs.
The only thing you can take to the bank at the moment is that the Rainmen will count heavily on their proven veterans — notably guard Tony Bennett, swingman Desmond Ferguson and forwards Gordon Malone and Eric Crookshank.
Point guard Gary Ervin, from the NBA D-League, and 6-foot-11 Mark McCarroll are also in mix for starting jobs.
Shuler-Jones along with fellow rookies Jevohn Shepherd, Adris Deleon and Shagari Alleyne are among those who can vault into prominence with strong pre-seasons.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Shuler-Jones said. “Everybody is competing for a spot and time and at the same time we’re competing to help each other win games.”
Levingston, unhappy with last year’s non-playoff finish, is eager to see how his new-look roster stacks up.
“All I know right now is, we look good on paper,” Levingston said. “We’ve been going against each other for a month and now we get to go against some fresh meat. When the bright lights come on, you get to see how guys respond.”