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Kansas City Pioneers

Kansas City Pioneers (72)

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 15:24

Pioneers 2026 Draft Recap

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- Following the trade of All Star Mack Lavoie to the Manhattan Swing the Kansas City Pioneers found themselves with the #10 pick in the 2026 OBWL Rookie Draft, their highest draft pick since they drafted Marshall Gaudett with the 4th overall pick in 2015. Entering the draft the Pioneers were interested in adding a youthful wing to the roster and were rumored to have brought UNLV forward Gerald Mathers and San Diego state swingman Bryant Walsh in for multiple workouts.

When the time to select #10 came, the Pioneers front office was shocked: the player they had ranked as the #1 prospect in the draft, St. Peter's forward Ambrose Vela, was still on the board.

"There were maybe two players in this draft that I thought had similar talent but were more OBWL-ready on draft day" said Pioneers GM Ben Johnson. "But based on sheer raw talent and athleticism, our scouting department had Vela at #1. In any event, I never dreamed he'd still be available at our pick. I couldn't believe it even as it was happening."

"Ambrose was off the charts in the athletic tests and drills at the draft combine" said Scouting Director and Vice President of Player Personnel Kevin Parker. "He's got ideal size, speed, and explosiveness for a wing player in this league. Obviously, he needs a lot of skill development and experience given that he did not come up through the AAU circuit or compete in a major OCBL conference. Still, we got a good long look at him as he played down the road on the Sun Kings' summer league team and we're convinced he has the tools to develop into an outstanding player."

Ambrose Vela was born in Front Royal, Virginia. The son of Venezuelan immigrants, his father a civil engineer and his mother a nurse, Vela grew up more interested in the sports of his parents' home country like soccer and baseball. "I wanted to play shortstop for the [Washington] Nationals after college" recalls Vela. "But then I got big. Fast." Vela grew nearly 8 inches (from 5'11 1/2" to 6'7") between the end of his sophomore year and the start of his senior year in high school. As a senior he decided to focus on basketball as it was now his best shot at a college scholarship.

"It was tough at first because I really hadn't played much organized basketball up until that point" said Vela. Although he put up good numbers in his sole season of varsity high school ball (mostly due to height and athletic ability) and earned Virginia All State honors, Vela was too late to the national recruiting scene to make much of an impression. Rated a three star prospect by OCBL scouts, Vela accepted a scholarship from St. Peter's University, a private Jesuit school in Jersey City, New Jersey.

"My parents were happy I picked a Catholic school. I was excited because it was just a couple miles from New York City" said Vela with a laugh. Despite his inexperience, Vela played well as a freshman, starting 32 games and averaging 17.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes played. Vela was named the Conference Freshman of the Year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.  When his raw talent and performance at the Draft Combine Summer League grabbed the attention of OBWL scouts he declared for the draft after just one season at St. Peter's.

At just 19 years old and less experienced than most rookies his age, Vela recognizes he has a lot of work ahead of him. "I'm kind of nervous and excited at the same time. I know I need to really put in work and a lot of hours but I want to get better, be the best player I can be. From what I've seen the Pioneers have great coaching and a lot of really good veterans, so my plan is work really hard, keep my eyes and ears open, and try absorb it all and do whatever they need me to do."

"It's been wild, going from like only two years of serious basketball to being a lottery pick in the best basketball league in the world. I want to make myself and everyone who has helped me get here real proud" said Vela.

With their two second round picks the Pioneers selected Colorado power forward Kenneth Friday with the 37th pick and Illinois combo forward Andrew Hadley with the 56th and last pick of the draft. Friday was waived a few weeks after the draft. "We think Kenneth has a solid future as a traditional rebounding, post defending power forward" said GM Ben Johnson. "But after we signed Andrew Sutton in free agency there just weren't enough roster spots to keep him. We decided to waive him sooner rather than later so he can hook up with a team before training camp." Friday was later claimed off waivers by the New Jersey Evolution.

PIONEERS ROOKIE DRAFT CAPSULES


SF Ambrose Vela | 6'7" | 223 lbs | Freshman, St. Peter's

Drafted Round 1, 10th Overall

Strengths: Ideal body type for an OBWL wing player... Has elite combination of size, speed, and jumping ability... Displays a knack for scoring from 18 feet and in... Good touch on off-the-dribble runners, floaters, and other midrange shots... Knows how to draw contact, averaged nearly 6 free throw attempts per 36 minutes... Isn't afraid to mix it up on the defensive glass with bigger players, tracks and attacks opponent's misses even outside of his immediate rebounding zone... Shows promise as a ball hawk with long strides, quick hands, and good instincts in passing lanes.

Weaknesses: Funky mechanics on his jump shot, slow release and shoots a bit of a flat knuckleball, made only 24.8% on 3.4 three point attempts in college... Turnover prone, really shows a lack of confidence and experience handling the ball under defensive pressure... Poor man-to-man defender and totally lost in help defense schemes... Tends to float and ball watch when his man is off the ball, vulnerable to back cuts and getting screened out of the play.

SF Andrew Hadley | 6'6" | 221 lbs | Senior, Illinois
Drafted Round 2, 56th overall

Strengths: Strong outside shooter, made 40.8% on more than five 3-point attempts per game in his four years at Illinois... Tough minded defender who fights in the low post, denies entry passes, and bodies up opponents... Front office feels he may have potential as a stretch PF who can defend bigger forwards in the paint while providing floor spacing on offense.

Weaknesses: Terrible ball handler, can't create his own shot off the dribble... Struggles defending on the perimeter, footwork is poor and often gets hung up trying to go over ball screens... below-average rebounder due to lack of height and lower body strength... Long shot to make a crowded veteran roster but will be invited to training camp for a look-see.

 

Thursday, 16 January 2020 14:47

Goodbye and Hello

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- The Kansas City Pioneers were surprisingly active on the eve of the 2026 OBWL Rookie Draft, announcing a trade that sent All Star Mack Lavoie to the Manhattan Swing in exchange for PF Johnnie Bechtel, SG Mark McKelvey, and the #10 overall pick.  The move marked the third offseason in a row that GM Ben Johnson has made a significant trade involving All Star caliber players.  In 2024, Johnson dealt Pioneers mainstays Colby Allan and Darell Edwards in return for Lavoie and Richard Hardee, and then in 2025 acquired All Defense 1st Team forward Charles Cazares from the Denver Demons.  The trades represent the franchise's ongoing effort to retool, reboot, or rebuild on the fly after nearly a decade where roster stability was a constant mantra.

After a heartbreaking Game 7 buzzer-beater loss in the Finals, sources close to the team said that the front office was turning its attention towards the future and making the roster younger, deeper, and more athletic moving forward.  Johnson seemed to confirm as much during the press conference announcing the trade.  

"When we traded for Mack and Richard Hardee two seasons ago, it was with the intent of keeping our window for contention open for a few more years.  I'd say we accomplished that, given 131 regular season wins and a trip to the Finals since that trade" said Johnson.

"Still, time marches on and the fact is our top 8 players entering this offseason averaged nearly 32 years old.  Unfortunately, keeping the team in the hunt for a title so long has meant trading away what young players we had waiting in the wings.  As such, it is necessary for us to start moving in the other the direction and start laying the groundwork for the future.  It's time, so to speak, to restock the cupboard."

Johnson continued: "As you guys who have covered the team for a while have heard me say a million times, you have to give up something of value to get something of value in this league.  So let me be clear, trading Mack was purely a basketball business decision.  Mack is one of the most talented and impactful ballplayers I've had the pleasure of having on one of my teams and I didn't take the decision to move him lightly.  We'll miss the toughness and winning attitude he brought to the squad."

"In return we would like to welcome Johnnie and Mark to the team.  Both guys are proven, productive veterans who can help us this year.  They are both on the last year of their contracts but we will have Bird rights on both so that gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of extensions, trades, or whatever direction we decide is best for the team.  That includes resigning these guys, as they will be given every opportunity to earn playing time and contribute on the court as we make another drive for the playoffs this season."

MEET THE NEW PIONEERS

 

PF Johnnie Bechtel - 6'9" 253 lbs.
2025 Season: 22.8 mpg | 10.3 ppg | 5.4 rpg | 1.2 bpg | 46.8 fg% | 15.0 PER

One season removed from averaging 19.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks as a starter for the Swing, Bechtel -- the OBWL Most Improved Player in 2022 -- is an active big man with a knack for scoring.  Quick and strong, the 8th year forward can muscle his way inside and has enough of a midrange game to keep defenders honest when he faces up.  Although a solid rebounder and rim protector, he lacks technique (and sometimes effort) defending the post and is slow to rotate in help situations.

"Johnnie is a player I've followed with interest ever since he was an OCBL prospect at Tennessee. He has a knack for getting buckets whether it’s in the low post or rolling to the basket.  We're excited to add his strength and scoring punch to our lineup" said Johnson.

SG Mark McKelvey - 6'5" 215 lbs.
2025 Season: 24.3 mpg | 10.4 ppg | 2.8 rpg | 2.2 apg | 1.6 spg | 12.9 PER

Something of a villain in the eyes of most Pioneers fans, owing to his days as a member of the L.A. Chaos, McKelvey is expected to bring some of the same physical, tough-minded defense that Lavoie brought the team the last two years.  A former All Star, 3x All Defense performer, and 2x OBWL steals leader, McKelvey has lost a step (or two!) but still brings physicality and expert ball hawking to the backcourt.

"I think Mark is one of those irritant type of players that fans love when he plays for their team and hate when he plays for the other team.  I think our fans will really embrace him once they see him out there in a gold uniform picking pockets, diving for loose balls, taking charges and talking trash to our opponents instead of to us for once" said Johnson with a laugh.

Thursday, 02 January 2020 12:28

Pioneers Fill Staff Vacancy, Prep for Draft

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- The Kansas City Pioneers have hired 61-year old Joseph Bricker, formerly of the Indiana Invaders, as an Assistant Coach and Player Development Coordinator. Bricker has reportedly signed a four year deal at $750,000 per. Bricker replaces the recently retired Brian Davis who spent the last 9 seasons in the same role for Kansas City. Davis, 61, decided to step away from the daily grind of being an OBWL assistant coach to focus on family and working part-time as a private player performance consultant and trainer.

Bricker comes to KC after two seasons with the Invaders. Prior to that he spent nearly 30 years as a coach at various levels: 8 years as a Division II head coach, 15 years as a Division I assistant (primarily at his alma mater Colorado) and 7 years as an associate head coach in Liga ACB, the top basketball league in Spain. Bricker cemented his reputation as an offensive guru in Spain and brought some innovative, euro-style pick and roll and spread offense principles with him when he joined the Invaders' staff in 2024.

"Joe has a wealth of experience both as a game coach and as a teacher of the game" said Pioneers GM Ben Johnson. "His grasp of the fundamantals of shooting, ball-handling, and defensive footwork will benefit all of our players, not just in the backcourt. We feel like he is a great fit with our veteran coaching staff."

With the coaching staff in place the Pioneers will now turn their attention to the upcoming rookie draft. Kansas City does not have a first round pick this year, having dealt it (#28) to Honolulu in the Richard Hardee / Mack Lavoie trade. Instead, Johnson and the coaching staff will try to turn up potential prospects with their two 2nd round picks, numbers 37 and 56 overall.

 

Wednesday, 11 September 2019 15:03

Pioneers Extend Lavoie, Turner

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) - The Kansas City Pioneers released a statement today announcing that they have extended the contracts of two starters, PG Mack Lavoie and C Joe Turner.  The extensions came just a few days after the team traded backup PG Larry Burt to the Denver Demons, a move made to clear enough budget space to be able to offer extensions to both players.

Turner signed a 3 year extension worth $9,945,000 (roughly $3.3 million per season).  Turner has started 23 of 31 games this season at center and is averaging 5.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game.  Turner currently ranks third on the team in total rebounds (207) and second in total blocks (66).

"Joe Turner has established himself as key role player for us, he brings effort and energy to the hard work of protecting the paint and cleaning the glass.  We're happy to have Joe under contract for another three seasons" said Pioneers GM Ben Johnson in the statement.

Lavoie, an OBWL All Star and third team All OBWL player last season, signed an extension worth $75,196,015 over four years (roughly $18.8 million per season). For the season, Lavoie is averaging 18.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 steals in 29.5 minutes per game.  One of the best two-way players in the game, Lavoie has been a sparkplug as the floor leader for the Pioneers since coming over from London in the Colby Allan trade.

"Mack is one of the top players in our league.  We are thrilled we were able to reach an agreement that will keep his toughness, competitiveness, and clutch mentality driving our team for four more years" said Johnson in the statement.

A few hours after the announcement, Lavoie posted the following on Instagram: 

"Excited to be staying in KC for the long term.  Coulda got more $$$ in free agency but those teams with cap space don't have the roster we got here in KC!  Me and my guys are focused on bringing the chip to the 8-1-6!!!"

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 15:04

Friendly Competition

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- Training camp is a memory and preseason is over, so once again the basketball world is abuzz as the 80-game trench warfare known as the OBWL regular season kicks off in 2025. It's time to set aside the friendly exhibitions of October basketball as 28 teams fight and compete to become the ones to lift the Heikkinen Cup in June.

The Kansas City Pioneers opened up the 2025 season at home against a pair of teams featuring familiar, friendly faces with connections to last season's blockbuster trade: The Honolulu Inferno, Pioneers center Richard Hardee's former team; and the Tampa Bay Tritons who now feature former KC superstar Colby Allan.

Inferno 91 at PIONEERS 109

Richard Hardee led the way against his old team, putting up 19 points (9-14 fgs), 14 rebounds, and 6 assists. PG Mack Lavoie added 26 points (12-22 fgs), 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Kansas City led by two heading into the 4th quarter before outscoring Honolulu 36-20 in the final stanza to pull away with a victory in the home opener. The Inferno pulled to within single digits, 99-91, on two Michael Weathersby free throws with 3:36 remaining in the game but were held scoreless the rest of the way.

New Pioneer Charles Cazares did not shoot well in his Kingsford Coliseum debut (5-17 fgs) but added 14 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 6 blocks. Cazares helped hold Inferno standout PF Udo Bach to 19 points on 7-19 shooting, and made a number of key defensive plays in the final minutes of the game to help lock down the win. One memorable play came with 6:22 left to go as Cazares picked the pocket of Inferno PF James Williams near the top of the key and then led the fast break, setting up Lavoie for a transition layup.

"My shot wasn't falling but I'm not too concerned by that" said Cazares in an on-court interview immediately following the game. "I just kept working on defense, passing the ball and other stuff and we got the win." In the end, Cazares posted a game-best +23 plus/minus score.

In the locker room, Hardee was asked if facing his old team provided any extra motivation. "Not really" said Hardee. "I mean, it always feels good when you do well against a team that traded you, heh. But I'm mostly just happy I played well, and played well in a real, official game. Preseason is one thing, regular season is a whole different thing. Coming off of a broken foot, if feels really great to have a good game against a guy like Zach Roush, who I know is a good defender."

Tritons 99 at PIONEERS 101

Although still playing at home, the schedule did not let up as the Pioneers had to match up the very next night with the Tampa Bay Tritons, one of the favorites to come out of the American Conference and contend for a Finals berth. The Tritons won 62 games last season and in the offseason added former Pioneer and 5x All Star and 4x All OBWL guard Colby Allan. Allan is still beloved by KC fans for his 2021 MVP campaign that finally brought a championship to the franchise after three previously unsuccessful trips to the Finals.

Allan did not disappoint the fans, looking in top form and pumping in 32 points (including 5-10 three point shots), 4 rebounds, and 5 steals. Behind this strong performance from Allan and fellow All Star Hunter Heath (20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals) the Tritons took a 6 point lead into the 4th quarter.

Once again the Pioneers' defense dug in during the final quarter, holding Tampa to 22 points in final 12 minutes and just 3 points in the final 1:55 of the game. Mark Marble, the player who stepped into starting two-guard spot following the Allan trade, took over in the 4th with 8 points, a steal, and an assist. Marble hit two momentum-swinging three pointers down the stretch. The first came with 8:28 left, capping a 15-9 Kansas City run that tied the game at 86. The second came with 1:26 remaining, putting the Pioneers ahead for good, 99-96. Marble then put the game out of reach with an assist to Blake Cobb on a possession that drained the full 24 seconds from the shot clock and gave KC a 5 point lead with just 0:49 left in the game.

For the game, the inside duo of Hardee (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Cazares (12 points, 14 rebounds) produced double-doubles for the second straight game. Mack Lavoie added 21 points (8-14 fgs, 5-8 3fgs), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Defensively, Lavoie held Tritons PG Hobert Frisby to 5 points (1-8 fgs, 1-5 3fgs) and 6 turnovers.

Marble finished with Player of the Game honors, racking up 30 points (12-25 fgs, 4-8 3fgs), 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Asked post-game about his head to head matchup with his former teammate, Marble said "It was great, man. Colby and I used to go hard at each other in practice and you knew it wasn't gonna be any different tonight. Colby's a great player and there's a lot of mutual respect there. It's nothing personal, we're both ultimate competitors and that brings out the best in both of us. It was an exciting game, a tough-fought game, and I'm glad we got the win. Tritons are a great team and Colby just takes them to another level, so you gotta really bring it against them or they're gonna embarrass you. Tonight it worked out for us, they're gonna remember this and come twice as hard the next time we play. That's what competition is all about."

 

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 15:26

Cazares Arrives in KC

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- It's been nearly a month since the Kansas City Pioneers acquired PF Charles Cazares from the Denver Demons in exchange for PF Andrew Sutton, PG Nelson Jones, PG Abe Gutierrez, and C Chris Hauck. The Demons had a mandate from ownership to reduce payroll and had been stymied in talks with other teams regarding a trade involving the 1st Team All Defense forward. In the end Kansas City agreed to take on the remaining 4 years and $98.2 million on Cazares' contract in return for two players on expiring contracts (Jones, Hauck) and two with team options for next season (Sutton, Gutierrez). The deal gives Denver the option to effectively wipe over $20 million from their books next offseason. In Cazares the Pioneers receive a two-time All Defense performer and an upgrade in the frontcourt.

Cazares arrived today at the practice court at Kingsford Coliseum after a summer vacation with his family in the Mediterranean. Cazares is one of the most spoken-about players in the OBWL, the conversation alternating between his contract -- considered by many to be the worst in the OBWL -- and his time in the circus-like environment that often surrounded his old team, the Demons.

Despite all the drama involving Demons players and Denver GM Klaus Von Meyerinck though, Cazares' personality, to say the least, is uncontroversial. Cazares is soft spoken and tended to fall into the background of a locker room that included many more forceful personalities such as Demons superstar Greg Fore.

Cazares took time to speak with local media after getting in a workout with the Pioneers' training staff:

Charles, where were you when you found out about the trade? What was your reaction?

"I was at a tapas bar in Madrid with some friends when my agent got a hold of me. I was pretty shocked to be honest. Before we went on vacation my agent had been speaking to KvM and we knew the Demons were looking into trades... but last I had heard it looked very, very unlikely. I guess teams were asking for too much in return."

Did you ask to be traded? The reports are that there was a lot on tension in Denver between KvM and ownership over the team's finances.

"To be honest with you, no, I never asked to be traded. I really enjoyed playing for the Demons and living in Denver. We went to the Finals two years ago and I got along great with my team mates. I even got along really well with KvM. I know he can be kind of dramatic and unorthodox but he never said a bad word to me. He was real good to me and put me in a position to be successful in the OBWL so I'll always be grateful for that opportunity."

How do you respond to the criticism that you have the "worst" contract in the OBWL? People talk about that a lot.

"It's a little frustrating from the standpoint that people talk about that and not so much about what I do on the court. It's a distraction sometimes. But I'll never apologize for getting a paycheck because I feel like I earn it. I play my ass off every night and as long as I'm satisfied that I gave maximum effort then I don't give a crap what people on social media or whatever say."

How do you feel about playing for the Pioneers?

"I've only been in town for a few days now so it's still sinking in. Everything has been kind of a blur, heh. The fans have been great, really excited and friendly when I see them. The organization itself, you can tell it's strong. As far as teams to get traded to, I can't complain considering I landed on a contending team. I thought I had a chance to win a championship in Denver, and I still feel that way now that I'm in KC so that's a relief. It's gonna take a while to get used to the new uniform and stuff though."

"Sorry guys but I got to run now. I've got a lot stuff to take care of before the season starts... finding a house, getting my stuff moved, you know. My sister Candace is going to be living with me here in KC and we gotta get her enrolled for classes in the fall. I'll catch you all later."

Thursday, 18 July 2019 16:01

Pioneers Get Back to Business

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- It's been a quiet two months around Pioneers HQ since the team's disappointing second round playoff loss to the eventual American Conference champion Kentucky Stallions. A very successful 66-14 season came to an unsatisfying early conclusion. The Pioneers actually outscored Kentucky in the series, by an average of 101.4 to 98.6, but the Stallions took the series by making all the right plays in the clutch. Kentucky won four games by a combined total of 14 points, and as result went on to defeat the defending champion St. Louis Sun Kings in the Conference Finals before losing to Colby Allan and the London Knights in the OBWL Finals.

"This one was tough. I'm going to be second-guessing and fretting over this one for a while" said 10-year veteran forward Marshall Gaudett a couple of weeks after the loss. "We felt like we were the better team. All credit to the Stallions, they played great, they played together. They made the plays down the stretch. They took those wins, we didn't give 'em to them."

"What it comes down to is, it's the first team to win four games. Not three. We didn't get it done" said Gaudett.

The Pioneers were without All Star center Richard Hardee for the last 21 games of the regular season and playoffs. Asked if Hardee being injured impacted the outcome of the series, Gaudett said: "Would having Richard have made a difference? Absolutely. Was that even an option with his injury? Heck no. We had a chance with the team that was out there on the court. In the end we didn't make the plays we needed to, we didn't execute like we're capable of. The Stallions did and earned a trip to the Finals. Period. That 'if only" or 'should have' stuff is for the fans. The players, the coaches on this team... we take responsibility for losing. No excuses."

Making a run in the postseason means a short offseason, and in the Pioneers' case, this season it was a hidden blessing in that the team did not have long to wallow in their disappointment.

RUN IT BACK

The Pioneers quickly got back down to the business of offseason basketball, announcing that the entire coaching staff was being brought back for another 5 years. Financial terms were not disclosed publicly but it is believed the staff took slightly less money than their previous contracts in return for the long term security of five year deals.

"I am happy to announce that Coach Schwalje and our veteran staff will back and under contract for another five seasons" said General Manager and President of Basketball Operations Ben Johnson.

"As I've said many times in the past, this organization values continuity and the coaching staff has been a huge part of that. Coach Cosmo will be entering his 12th season as head coach of the Pioneers and the majority of his staff has been here for the better part of a decade. Cosmo has guided our players through many ups and downs over the years and his determination and optimism have been an essential and steadying influence on all of us. I can't imagine anyone else leading this team into the next decade other than Coach Schwalje" said Johnson.

Sources close to the team say that at 60 years old Coach Schwalje effectively has tenure in the eyes of Johnson and is welcome to remain head coach until he chooses to retire. Johnson moved quickly to lock up the coaching staff again this season as Schwalje enters 2025 just 9 wins shy of a milestone 700 for his career. Standing at a career record of 691 - 189 (.785), Schwalje is already the winningest coach in OBWL history.

"As far as Ben is concerned, it's Cosmo's job until he hangs it up or he's pushing daisies, whichever comes first" said the unnamed source.

Thursday, 24 January 2019 00:45

The Art of Progress

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"The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order."
— Alfred North Whitehead, 1929

KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) — In news that stunned some and surprised many, the Kansas City Pioneers announced today that they have traded their longtime starting backcourt of 2-time All Star and 2021 Playoff MVP Darell Edwards and 4-time All Star and 2021 OBWL MVP Colby Allan. As part of a three-team blockbuster, Edwards has been sent to the Honolulu Inferno and Allan moves to the London Knights. In return the Pioneers will receive 2-time All Star center Richard Hardee, G/F Mack Lavoie, and PG Nelson Jones.

Pioneers GM and President of Basketball Operations Ben Johnson met with the press to answer questions about the trade. Johnson began the presser with a prepared statement.

"First of all, let me begin by extending my sincere thanks and appreciation to both Darell and Colby. Both players have been a huge part of our program here in Kansas City and have given us so much as outstanding leaders on and off the court. We thank them both for all that they've done and wish them the best as they begin new chapters in their basketball story" said Johnson.

"It's very difficult to trade two guys of such high quality in terms of character as well as competitors. Darell was my first draft pick as general manager here in KC and for 10 seasons he was the only floor general we have ever known. I have always been demanding of my team's point guards wherever I have worked and that is because I believe that position carries the greatest responsibility out on the court. Darell took the reins as a rookie and accepted that responsibility with a maturity beyond his years."

"For a decade I have never had to worry about that position and frankly never could imagine another guy playing that position for us. In many ways, I still can't imagine it. We will never be able to replace Darell Edwards, we can only hope some player comes along and makes that position his own, in his own way, just as Darell did it his own way when he first arrived in KC."

"We could not have won a championship without Colby Allan by Darell's side. Colby had the difficult task of replacing a legend in Rudy Akamine and he did it not by trying to 'be' Rudy but by being the best Colby Allan he could be. In 2021, Colby put together an MVP season scoring and passing and elevating not just himself but his teammates as well. Colby was the rare superstar who played so well within the team concept. He almost always made the correct basketball play, whether that was calling his own number, or setting up his teammates, or simply knowing when to take a step back and let others make the plays. He'll always be remembered as the man who delivered a Heikkinen Cup to this organization and to our great fans."

Johnson then opened the floor to reporter's questions.

"Ben, the team is coming off its third straight 60+ win season. Many of your fans are wondering tonight 'why fix something if it isn't broken?' What do you have to say to those fans, who wonder if this is an overreaction to the team's unexpected first round exit in the playoffs?"

Said Johnson: "Good question. And I'm afraid I don't have an easy answer for it. There were a lot of factors involved. I can say this is not just a direct response to the loss in the playoffs to the Invaders. The Invaders were a much better team than their regular season record showed, mostly due to injuries. They were at more or less full strength when we faced them. We knew going in that we'd have to play our best to win that series and quite simply we didn't play well. So from a talent standpoint I feel like obviously we still had the goods. The larger concern is why the execution wasn't there."

"Ever since Dontae Grant retired after we won it all in 2021, I've had this feeling we were living on borrowed time — so to speak. The last three seasons have been tough. As a unit the team has pushed itself night in and night out to maintain that championship level. After a decade of very successful regular seasons, deep runs in the playoffs, a championship, wringing as much additional help as we could out of veterans on minimum contracts... it just felt like maybe now was the time for change."

"We've prided ourselves for a long time on actively maintaining continuity in the organization. But time is undefeated and I think after a while a team just becomes mentally and physically exhausted. I think at those times you need a change. Whether it's a fresh voice in the front office or the coaching staff, or bringing in new players and saying goodbye to old ones, there inevitably comes a point where change really is the best thing for everyone."

"So trading Darell and Colby is some sort of attempt to reboot the culture around the Pioneers?"

"No, absolutely not. That's why this is hard to explain. Darell and Colby were not a problem. Not on the court or off the court. Let me be clear: this was a basketball decision. At the end of the day, I feel we have a better roster after this trade than we did before it. Following the end of our season we felt our top priority was upgrading our interior. Like I said earlier, ever since Dontae retired we'd gotten by with Andrew Sutton in the middle and paired with veterans like Erik Thompson, Tony Jimenez, and Austin Alexander on one year contracts."

"Those guys put in tremendous work but we felt like this was an area we needed to address more aggressively. With Dontae gone the team had become very wing-heavy. We felt like we had a bit of a logjam at the perimeter positions and really needed to re-balance the roster in order to compete at the highest level."

"According to league sources, very few GMs had any idea that Edwards and Allan were available. So how did this huge trade come together?"

"In our opinion Richard Hardee is one the best big men in the OBWL. And as perhaps the only high caliber big man who was actually available this offseason, he wasn't going to come cheap. As you may have noticed, you have to give something up in order to get something in this league (chuckles weakly)."

"In this case, the price was expiring salary and draft picks. Unfortunately we've never had the luxury of structuring our payroll in such a way that we had $14 million in expiring money invested in players who are not an integral part of our rotation. Darell's contract has this year and then a team option for next year. That gives the Inferno a lot of flexibility. He's effectively expiring salary that they can also move to another team easily for more picks or prospects."

"We also had an offer on the table from the Knights that involved Mack Lavoie and two firsts in exchange for Colby Allan. As the saying around the league goes 'Pioneers 1st round picks are worthless' — or so I've been told — so in order to get a deal done for Hardee we were going to have to go with volume over perceived quality. It was going to take Edwards and four 1sts, including the Knights also-supposedly worthless picks to make it happen."

"So that's the decision we had to make as an organization. Send out Darell and Colby essentially in return for an All Star big, an All Star wing, and a promising young point guard we like quite a bit. Ultimately my thinking was this: If we are to the point that we are considering moving a player like Darell Edwards in the hopes of re-balancing our team, then I guess no one really is untouchable now. We agonized and analyzed it for weeks and in the end we decided that we feel that Lavoie is a different but equally talented player as Colby Allan."

"Lavoie hasn't been that kind of 'alpha dog' player that Colby has been, and we don't really expect that. If anyone is going to replace that quality on our team, it's probably going to be Mark Marble. But Lavoie brings great defense, positional versatility, and underrated offense. We're hoping that he — really, all three players we received — will bring some fresh qualities to the team and give us a lift heading into the season."

"For those reasons we decided... I decided... to make this trade. I've talked to everyone involved, the coaches, the players, and I think we're all excited about a new direction for Pioneers basketball. I know a lot of fans are feeling sad and disappointed, maybe even angry. I'm a little sad too. But I know one thing for sure and that's that change is inevitable. We've put it off for a long time but it was always coming. I think it was time to make a change for the better while we could still make the decision for ourselves, rather than have it forced on us."

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 16:18

Marble Making a Difference in KC

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- The Kansas City Pioneers have found their stride lately, going 12-1 in February and posting the 2nd best record in the OBWL at 44-12 (.786). While Player of the Month and team centerpiece Colby Allan certainly has had a big hand in the hot streak, Mark Marble, the team's big free agent acquistion this offseason has had a big impact as well.

After getting off to a slow start with his outside shooting this season, Marble has found his groove as the team's sixth man. In February Marble averaged 21.4 points (47.1% shooting overall, 39.7% from three), 4.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in a little less than 29 minutes per game off the bench. Projected over 36 minutes per game Marble's impact is even more evident, averaging 26.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per 36 minutes played.

Marble had his best game as a Pioneer in February, scoring a season high 42 points (14-19 fgs, 9-10 fts, 5-8 3fgs) and grabbing 9 rebounds in a 100-79 win in Boston.

Prior to coming to Kansas City, Marble had started 454 of 458 career OBWL games. This season, Marble has made just three starts in 56 games. "It's an adjustment, bro" said Marble to reporters after practice. "I've literally never not started... OBWL, Villanova, high school, everywhere. So it's really different coming into the game after sitting on the bench for 6 or 7 minutes after tipoff."

Marble continued "Part of it was just new teammates, new system, that sort of thing. But after playing together in games and in practice, you get adjusted to everyone and they get used to you, where you like the ball and stuff."

Asked what he did to help the process from starter to sixth man along, Marble said "I think a big part of it was mental. Like not pressing too hard when you first come in, not shooting it the very first time you touch the ball. Sometimes when you're a sixth man you feel this pressure to come in and start taking over the game, try to make a difference immediately... and really, that just makes things worse. I learned to get into the flow a bit and realize I was going to get my minutes and touches regardless and not over-think it."

"Communicating with my teammates was a big help too. Colby and Blake [Cobb] have both won Sixth Man of the Year so of course they had great advice. They showed me how to stay loose on the sideline and things to watch for in the game while on the bench, things I can use when I check into the game. They showed me the advantages of being a sixth man and why it's a really important role for the team too."

"Now I feel comfortable with my role and I feel like we're starting to gel as a team. When I signed here in the offseason it's because I wanted to be a difference-maker on a contending team and I feel like I'm doing that now."

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 14:38

Respect, Walk

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- Pioneers guard Colby Allan was named American Conference Player of the Month for February. For the month Allan averaged 24.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists while shooting 49.2% from the field and 47.7% from three. The Pioneers went 12-1 in February and are currently on an 11 game win streak.

The player of the month award comes shortly after Allan failed to make the All Star team for the first time in four seasons and -- somewhat related -- at a time when an intense debate has erupted on social media regarding a few of the AmCon's rising stars (Timothy Adler, Lynwood Emmert, Lynwood Jamison).

Local reporters recently caught up with Allan at a post-practice media scrum:

"Colby, how do you feel about being named Player of the Month, especially in light of the All Star snub?"

"I guess this means we'll have to cancel the retirement party y'all had planned for me in the offseason," the 26 year old Allan joked. "No, seriously though, it's always great to be named Player of the Month. It means you've played really well over several weeks and that usually means the team is doing good too. I think we've settled in and been real focused during this stretch. We got some new faces on the squad this year and naturally there's an adjustment period. I think everyone feels comfortable now and it's showing out there on the court."

"Did the All Star selections motivate you to step it up this month?"

"Needing to win games motivated me" Allan said with a laugh. "The AmCon is brutal this season and we're all just focused on trying to win as many games as possible and not take anything or anyone for granted. But no, I ain't sweating All Star games. It's great to honored and play for the fans but I know numbers are a big part of what goes into the selections and I guess I don't have the numbers this year. Our whole system here in KC is about not putting too much of a load on any one player so we're not gonna get the minutes and the stats a lot of other guys are."

Allan continued: "Coach Schwalje has told me more than once he sorta regrets putting such a heavy load on Rudy [Akamine], asking him to go out there and score 30 or 35 every night. I played with Rudy for three years and I saw the wear and tear all those minutes put on your body, all the treatments he had to go through to recover from a game and get ready for the next one. Now as a team we try to keep the minutes down. We got really good players, we trust each other and try not to rely on any one guy too much."

"It's good for the team and it's good for the players' careers too. I'd trade a trip to the All Star Game for a trip to the Finals any day, so I'm good."

"What do you think about all the back-and-forth stuff on social media about Adler, Emmert, and Jamison?"

"Oh, I think it's great. I think it shows how excited their fans are and it shows why there's no easy games in the AmCon. There's a lot of teams with young guys coming up now and they're all trying to 'get theirs' if you know what I mean. I mean, I ain't saying it's cool to trash a hotel room, but I get where all that's coming from. I think that kind of fire is good for the game honestly" said Allan.

"Emmert trashed that room because he didn't get picked for the All Star Game.   Fans in KC feel like you deserved to make the All Star team much more than him.  What do you have to say about that?"

"I totally get where Emmert’s coming from. Every OBWL player thinks he's the best when he steps on the court, that's the nature of the game. If you don't have that supreme confidence then your opponents will eat you alive. You need to feel that arrogance just to survive" said Allan.

"I talk as much trash as any other guy out there. So what these guys are saying don't surprise me at all. I just prefer to keep my talking on the court where I can back it up. Talking on social media or in the press don't mean much to me because that's just noise. Where I grew up, all that mattered was that you backed it up on the court."

"Besides, if I got into a Twitter beef or trashed a hotel room, Coach Cosmo and Mr. Johnson would fine the shit out of me" Allan said with a smile. "I don't like having to pay to to make a point to some asshole when I can do it for free on the court."

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