The Conductors Corner: Same Team, New Faces BY: JEREMY JAMES FOKUOH
Another season, and another chance for the Windsor Express to add to their collection of NBLC Championships.
That was a good intro right? Well, I liked it.
The Windsor Express are back for another season on December 26 with the same coaching staff, the same management, and the “same team”.
Yes, the “same team”. It’s still the Windsor Express you’ll be watching at the WFCU Centre on your weekday evenings or weekends. If we’re talking players, then no. This is a completely new group of players suiting up for the Express this year. A final roster hasn’t been set, but this training camp roster looks quite impressive on paper.
If we’re talking standouts, I couldn’t possibly continue this without mentioning Darren Duncan. The 5-11 floor general has returned to his stomping grounds to control the team that Tony Bennett and Alex Johnson have left for grabs. He last played in Finland and already has a history with the team, winning the first NBLC championship in 2014. His impressive control of the ball and control of the game undoubtedly makes him the starting point guard. No doubt in my mind.
Alex Campbell makes his way from the St. Denis Centre to suit up for the Express this year too. I’ve watched Campbell play since his first few games with the University of Windsor Lancers. He’s an impressive two way guard that can play under a system and I’m pretty convinced that he and Head Coach Bill Jones will either click right away or it’ll take time to develop a relationship. Either way, it’ll happen.
Who else stands out? Well, since you’re asking….
Warren Ward makes his way over from the London Lightning for Express training camp. Personally, I never liked him before only because he was wearing a Lightning jersey during the Windsor Express playoff run last season. You can call me biased and that’s okay. Now that he’s not wearing it anymore, I’m more than happy to acknowledge that the Canadian guard is a great pick up for the Express. A lot of heart and high volume energy from a player who could not only shoot the ball, but easily cut through screens for easy buckets to the rim. I expect him to be a fan favorite soon enough.
Also, I absolutely LOVE that four players over 6’9 have been invited to training camp to add size to the Windsor Express, something that has been missing with the team since DeAndre Thomas went down. Those players include Randy Ollie, Lester Prosper, Jernard Jarreau and former Windsor Express big man Nick Evans. Evans stands at an impressive 6’11 and weighs 240 pounds. If they could insert at least one (and I’m begging for AT LEAST one) of those big men into the rotation, I will be a happy supporter of this team. Even if he’s not a part of the offense, the defense can benefit from a big man in the middle. Last season, opponents got to the rim a little too easy. The Express defense on the perimeter was very strong during the season, but the inside lacked in size. Kirk Williams Jr. did step up to play in the middle, but the reality is that he’s not a center, he’s a stretch power forward. If the Express decide to go with a center-less offense/defense for another season, prepare for a crucial bashing in this column when they lose in the post or get outrebounded. Fair warning.
Mitchell Wiggins Jr. has also been picked up by the Express. Yes, Wiggins. As in former number one NBA Draft pick Andrew Wiggins. This, however, is his older brother. I don’t have no expectations for what role he will play with the Express if he makes the team, but his name alone should provide some hope. He’s an aggressive forward, Canadian, and definitely has the family gene in terms of attacking the rim. Also, you never know, Andrew might show up to a game if he’s in town playing the Detroit Pistons. Never say never.
My prediction for the Windsor Express? I’m looking at a deep playoff run.
With two new teams included in the NBLC this year, teams can now be eliminated from playoff contention. The Windsor Express, however, will not be one of those teams sitting out. Expect Bill Jones and his coaching staff to implement his system into his brand new team immediately and I, personally, expect Darren Duncan to run the offense the way Jones wants him too. Can they win the championship? Of course. Will they win the championship? Hard to say in an unpredictable league like the NBLC, but they won’t go down without a fight. Dartis Willis and management have brought in players with not only skill, but heart. In any organization, that’s big to have.
But, what do I know? I’m just watching basketball.