After a long off season that saw a plethora of roster changes and a switch to a new league, the Santa Barbara Breakers are finally set to open their first season in the West Coast Pro Basketball League on Friday against the Newport Beach Surf.
This year the Breakers will be looking to build upon an extremely successful initial season that included a 17-6 record in the International Basketball League and a trip to the Western Conference Finals. While the opening night roster may not look much like last year’s — with the likes of key players such as Samaki Walker, Toby Bailey, Billy Knight and Ronell Mingo still playing overseas and the retired Fred Vinson now a coach for the Los Angeles Clippers — Breakers owner and head coach Curt Pickering is excited about the new wealth of talent that will be coming in.
“There are so many new faces,” Pickering said. “We will need to rely on team play and execution more so than last year when we relied upon veteran skilled players to carry the team individually.
With the return of the players in Europe still uncertain, there will be a lot of new talented players with an opportunity to step up and play key roles for the Breakers this season. Among them will be Mark Peters, an extremely quick and aggressive point guard, and guard Shantay Legins, a former local standout at Dos Pueblos High. Also in the mix will be guard Tim Taylor, formerly with the Butte Daredevils of the CBA, and Johnnie Parker, a versatile and savvy 6-foot-7 forward who can play the two, three or four spots.
Pickering will look to prolific scoring guard Justin Johnson and forward Sheldon Bailey, both back for their second season with the Breakers, for some added leadership. Forward Josh Merrill, a 6-foot-9 former UCSB star, will offer an added element to the team as he will assume the role of player and assistant coach.
Rounding out the opening night roster will be 6-foot-10 forward Harry Good and 6-foot-9 forward Armand Thomas, both of whom are very talented players but are also coming off injuries, and shot blocker extraordinaire, 7-foot-1 center Rashid Byrd, who was the last player cut from the Sacramento Kings’ 15-man roster this season.
The Breakers will have their hands full with a tough Newport squad, featuring a gifted scoring tandem in 6-foot-1 guard Thomas Taylor and 6-foot-9 forward Tev Banks. Taylor’s great quickness and Banks’ raw power could provide some matchup problems. Also, 6-foot-9 center Johnny Hartwick is an exceptional shot blocker who can create some real problems for teams on the interior.
“There are a tremendous amount of great players in the California region that will be representing these (eight) franchises in the WCBL,” Pickering said.
“Our schedule will be very competitive. I look forward to a very exciting season.”
Friday’s tip-off is at 7:05 pm.
Ryan Reeves is the Santa Barbara Breakers’ assistant media relations director.