MIAMI, Fla. (AP) -- The last time we caught up with the South Florida Sharks, the up and coming basketball team was entering a crucial period during the off-season. A power struggle, of sorts, started between owner Robert Day and GM Lay. Lay wanted more money and say in roster and coaching hires while Robert Day believed Lay had not build up that level of trust to garner so much power. As rumors swirled of a flirtation between Lay and a few larger sized market teams, Day relented and increased the budget and allowed Lay to bring in a new staff.
At the time, GM Lay wanted to shore up the team's defense and focus on adding some punch on the outside. Entering the draft, the Sharks had a top 8 draft pick and made it clear they had some players they thought could make an impact early. After Frisby and Gauvin were taken early, the Sharks pivoted and took blue chipper Wesley Lefler, power forward / center type who seemed a bit raw. South Florida liked his inside game and believed he could develop into a solid shotblocker down the line.
The Sharks also took a flyer on Frank Mask, the hybrid 3/4 player who had garnered a lot more attention during his college career than during the weeks leading up to the actual draft. Most believed Mask had limited upside and were unsure how his game could translate. The Sharks reportedly tried to trade up from #20 to #15 through #18 just to try and land Mask as they believed his knack for playing tough defense and rebounding could be a solid depth player that could contribute sooner than later. It is no secret star David Witherspoo does not like to defend and rebound a great deal, so adding a piece like Mask that can help compliment the star scorer may be helpful in certain situations. Look for the Sharks to send Mask down along with former top 6 pick Marvin Marshall to the Sarasota Savages to give them some starting minutes. I would not be shocked to see one of both getting some run at the pro level by season's end though.
What shook the league, however, was not a draft selection the Sharks, but a draft day blockbuster that sent Pick #21, Todd Padron, Marco Naselli, and the Sharks 2021 1st in exchange for Dominique Bahena from the Highlanders. Many around the league believed this move was a brilliant play by GM Lay as Bahena is well known for his lock down perimeter defense and ability to shoot from outside.
"Bahena was a nice get for us. We liked his toughness and length to pair nicely with Spoo."
By length, GM Lay is underselling his starting wings. Both Bahena and the aforementioned Wintherspoo was 6'8" with long arms. In theory, many are speculating the size and length should help the Sharks tighten up along the perimeter and keep them from being bullied by larger wings around the league.
"Bahena definitely will allow us to be a bit more flexible with our rotations and minutes, especially with Claud showing up to camp ready to go."
Claud Lassiter has been an enigma for the league the last few years. Some look at him and see his natural ability to score, others see a headache that may never quite live up to his potential. After finding out the news of the trade, Claud would be relegated to a 6th Man type role to provide a scoring punch off the bench. Most anticipated Lassiter taking the loss of a starting spot poorly, but Claud instead showed up ripped and already in mid-season shape.
The Sharks also brought back Arthur Fiscus, Tony Griffith, Ryley Hanover, and Richard Voyles back on smaller contracts. South Florida has made no secret that they are looking at a 2-3 season window to compete and push for a possible first time division title in team history. In order to do so, many believe GM Lay will need to pull out a few more tricks from under his sleeve to shore up the power forward and center positions as many teams within the National East are boasting rosters with extremely talented big men that can score and defend.
Will the picks, deals, and moves solidify South Florida as a contender or will all the experiments blow up in the braggadocios GM's face? Stay tuned.