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A Power-ful introduction to Oshawa

Oshawa Power Head Coach Mark Strickland hands over a pair of tickets to Mayor John Henry. The Power will play their first game at home on November 3.

September 14, 2011

By Geoff Zochodne/The Oshawa Express 

The Oshawa Power’s head coach Mark Strickland speaks deeply, quietly and with a hint of a Southern drawl he has brought with him from his hometown of Atlanta.

He’s steeped in the game of basketball. His references include famed coaches Pat Riley, Larry Brown, John Chaney and Don Nelson; so there’s no reason not to believe him when he tells you “We’re going to work.”

And when the Oshawa Power takes the court on October 30, odds are they’ll know the specifics of Coach Strickland’s vow.

A recent press conference brought to light more details about Oshawa’s new professional basketball franchise.

The team’s colours, logo, ticket prices, head coach and second-round draft pick were all unveiled, to a high degree of excitement. Apparently, the team’s name has managed to convey a certain amount of electricity to it.

The Oshawa Power’s team colours will be orange, white and black, a combination the team believes will convey the strength, resolve and toughness of the community.

Orange is a lowercase power colour, as well as being one of healing, vitality and endurance.

“Today is a special day for the city of Oshawa,” says Drew Ebanks, a media representative for the Power, and someone who says that he has spent his whole life promoting the game of basketball throughout Canada.

Taking the crowd’s temperature, Ebanks was impressed by what he saw.

“I don’t know if we thought there’d be this much enthusiasm,” he exclaims. “We’re going to make it the best NBL team and hopefully bring home a championship.”

Gary Durrant, the Power’s president of basketball operations, echoed Ebanks’ excitement but added that he was also pleasantly surprised by how things are shaping up.

“Things are really beginning to come together,” he says.

The team’s president then introduced Oshawa’s first coach and shared his contentment of the selection with the crowd. Being able to contact references like Strickland’s was something that Durrant says he enjoyed; as was making the choice of Mark Strickland for the team’s new coach.

Strickland, an Atlanta, Georgia native, is a former NBA veteran of nine years who also spent considerable time playing professional basketball overseas as well.

After Strickland retired from the court, he has since been compiling a serious resume on the sidelines. Strickland has served as coach for the NBA Development League’s Bakersfield Jam, Morehouse College and as interim head coach for the Cleveland Magic of the World Basketball Association.

“Ever since I retired I’ve been trying to give back to a game that’s given me so much,” explains Strickland, adding his time with Oshawa is another such chance. “It’s going to be a great opportunity.”

One of the reasons Durrant gave for selecting Strickland as head coach was his commitment to bettering the community and players outside basketball as well. Durrant says he cannot wait to get Strickland and the team out and working with community members.

“I think we need more people trying to do that,” says Strickland.

The coach made it clear that he will be taking time to connect with the youth of Oshawa and provide them with some support.

“We need a lot of people to step up and fill those roles,” he says.

The coach’s time spent overseas and in the pro ranks also gave him what he feels is a more intimate understanding of what players go through.

“I kind of know these guys’s journey,” he says, adding he believes he understands what it is like to try and make a living playing basketball. His time in the NBA began with a one-day tryout which he then parlayed into a nine-year career walking a tightrope.

“I know what it takes,” Strickland asserts.

When it comes to how he will run his team, the coach explains he will be expecting a high-level of conditioning from his squad.

“I want guys that play hard and are in shape,” he says. “We’re going to work.”

One of those subject to Strickland’s training methods will be Kevin Francis, the team’s second round draft pick. Francis is a 6’8’’ forward from Brampton. He graduated from Cleveland State University in 2007 before embarking on a career that took him to Finland, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, China and France.

“Big changes,” Francis comments on the change between himself before and after his globetrotting. “One of the changes is turning into a man out there.”

Francis was blunt about his new team.

“Since I heard about the league all I wanted to do was play for Oshawa,” Francis says. Being in the city will allow him to be closer to his family, who live just down Hwy. 401. They, he laughs, will be a large group of those seeking tickets to Power games.

“I think this is going to be a great thing going around Canada. I think the league is going to open up a lot of things for the community.”

During the press conference, Ebanks forced Francis to cop to a story that had happened to him recently. While helping a friend move, a passer-by approached the forward and said he had seen him recently during the NBL Draft.

“It just shows you the recognition people involved are going to have,” Ebanks claims. “We want to make guys like Kevin a household name.”

After last weekend’s player showcase, the team will be opening its training camp soon. Oshawa’s first preseason game will be against the London Lightning in London on October 23. Both teams will then turn it around and play a second preseason game in Oshawa on October 27 at the GM Centre at 7:30 p.m.

Oshawa’s regular season will tip-off on October 30 in Quebec City. The team will return home on November 3 to play the Moncton Miracles at the General Motors Centre at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the team are on sale now. Season tickets, a nine-game flex pack and single tickets can all be purchased from the GM Centre box office, the Oshawa Centre kiosk, by calling 1-877-859-9599 or by logging on to www.generalmotorscentre.com.

Leading the way and making the first purchase was Oshawa Mayor Henry, who grabbed a couple courtside seats for the team’s home opener.

 

 

 


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