Omari Johnson leans into a shot during the Oshawa Power's 87-80 loss to the London Lightning. Johnson had 19 points and 9 rebounds during the loss, which put the Power 6-8 on the season.
December 14, 2011
By Geoff Zochodne/The Oshawa Express
During the fourth quarter of the Oshawa Power and London Lightning’s rubber match Sunday, the sun burst through the westward-facing windows of the General Motors Centre.
The beams of light settled over a team that seemingly changes by the minute.
Gone are EJ Kusyner, Jushay Rockett and Kevin Francis. In their place are David Collins and Jerome Brown, picked up in a trade with Saint John; and Dwain Williams and Paul Campbell, recently signed by the Power.
The sun continued to light up the court. Out on the hardwood, the Power were clinging to a lead they had seen whittled from 12 to one. The London Lightning, having been beaten the previous night by the Power, 99-93, sensed the momentum had shifted and begun firing three-pointers with reckless abandon. The NBL’s top team had 10 threes in the fourth quarter.
The sun shone on London’s Rodney Buford, the wily veteran. With three deft strokes Buford finished Oshawa for the day, the three threes his only points of the game. His final blow looked like it was launched from behind the scorer’s table. When it fell he turned, raised his arms and embraced his teammate.
The sun also shone on the Oshawa Power. Only six from the original roster remain up and playing. The others are gone home, released, traded or hurt. When the sun hit the court it lit up the new faces that populate the roster.
Just before the final buzzer sounded, announcing the 87-80 loss for Oshawa, one new face heaved one last three-pointer. Dwain Williams’ shot swished through the net and the crowd applauded.
Williams was suiting up for the first time in front of the Oshawa faithful. He had been released previously by the NBA Development League’s Idaho Stampede, and was signed and playing for the Power within days.
The 6’0’’ San Diego native and University of Hawaii alum barely blinked when asked about his situation.
“I’m just trying to get used to my teammates, learn the plays. I haven’t even been here a week,” says Williams. The former Rainbow Warrior averaged 14 points in his final season with Hawaii, where he was also a teammate with new Power member Paul Campbell. Williams says he knows Campbell’s game, but as for the rest of the squad he’s going to have to learn as he goes.
“I feel like it’s a great league. This is really my first-and-a-half year out of school and it’s great to get your feet wet in a league like this,” says Williams. “I just need to get more reps in practice; learning the plays and stuff like that and everything will take care of itself.”
Williams finished his second game as a member of the Power with 10 points in 19 minutes. Part of the reason he saw so much time while having been a member of the team so briefly was an elbow injury sustained by point guard Tut Ruach, which prevented him from taking shots. In a previous game against London, Akeem Wright suffered a cut to his hand that disabled him similarly.
With the barrage of injuries, Morgan Lewis is still sidelined with his facial fracture, and other freak occurrences, Oshawa had to release Jushay Rockett after he could not re-enter Canada, Coach Mark Strickland has needed the rest of the team to step up.
During the 87-80 loss to London, guard Marcus Johnson had a banner game, scoring 24 points. Omari Johnson added 19 of his own to go with nine rebounds. Campbell, Dwain Williams’ old college buddy, led the Power with 11 rebounds.
Johnson has a 42-inch vertical leap he uses to great effect all over the court. Several times against the Lightning he bounded over the heads of his opponents to grab a rebound or tip a shot back in. With Ruach sidelined for much of the game, Johnson put his talents to good use in the losing effort.
“Coach started me and I came out just wanting to be aggressive. Different teams play you differently, you have to take what they give you,” explains Johnson.
When it comes to the ever-shifting roster, the 6’3’’ guard from the University of Dayton had a simple answer. “Practice. We’ve got to learn by practicing together. You’ve got to develop chemistry.”
Having come up on the wrong side of a three-game split with London, Coach Strickland recognized the inconsistencies that continue to plague his team.
“We have to get to the point when we stop winning one, losing one,” says Coach Strickland.
Having a player like Williams come in and take over the point guard spot mid-season is extremely unusual says the coach..
“We’re starting to take strides in the right direction we just need it to equal out to wins,” he says. “It’s the first year here (in Oshawa), it’s a first year team, you have to have chemistry.”
London, notes Coach Strickland, has been playing together for years in both the Premier Basketball League and the Continental Basketball Association, following head coach Michael Ray Richardson wherever he goes.
“They won two or three championships, the same team. Michael Ray keeps the same guys, the core guys…then when you add a pro like Rodney Buford you have an advantage,” says Coach Strickland.
When offered the opportunity blame the season’s ups and downs for the lack of wins, the coach refused.
“I can’t blame it on that. We’ve just got to find a way to win. That’s all we can do.”