Kansas City Pioneers

Kansas City Pioneers (69)

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."

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 15:04

Pioneers 2023 Midseason Report

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- Although they had no players selected to play in the All Star Game this year, with a 36-12 record at the break the Kansas City Pioneers find themselves leading the American Conference by a single game over the defending champion Anaheim Archers and the surging St. Louis Sun Kings.

The Pioneers rank 1st in the OBWL in offensive efficiency (106.7) and 4th in defensive efficiency (94.0) after some early season struggles on defense.  The team's balance at both ends of the court has resulted in the 2nd best record in the OBWL at midseason and the best point differential (+12.5) overall.

Offensively the team ranks around the middle of the pack in terms of pace (18th) but lead the league in three-pointers made (9.8), three-pointers attempted (26.1), and 7th in three-point field goal percentage (.377).  Coach Cosmo Schwalje has added some wrinkles this season to the team's "pace and space" sets; involving his bigs in more slip screens and quick duck-ins at times in order to take advantage of teams overplaying the Pioneers on the perimeter. As a result the Pioneers rank 2nd in the OBWL in Adjusted Field Goal Percentage (.513) and 7th in Points Per Shot (1.19).

Defensively the Pioneers foul less than any team in the OBWL (15.6) and rank 2nd in block percentage (12.5) and 15th in steal percentage (8.0).  Although the steals are down from last season (when KC ranked 2nd) the team is holding opponents to just 1.03 points per shot, good enough for 2nd in the league.

Regarding the "snubbing" of Pioneers players for the All Star Game despite a very successful first half of the season, Kansas City GM and President of Basketball Operations Ben Johnson was not concerned.  "Our guys simply don't play the kinds of minutes and put up the kinds of numbers that usually lead to All Star nods" said Johnson.  "We have 11 guys averaging 10 minutes per game or more, and only one them -- Darell Edwards -- has cracked 30+ minutes a game.  Just by the eye test, the OBWL as a whole might be playing at its highest pace since league inception.  Our guys have a lot of mileage on them, including their playoff minutes, so we're trying to manage minutes over a marathon of 80 regular season games.  Unfortunately that might mean fewer awards or league leading individual numbers but hopefully it pays off in the long term."

Let's take a look at the team's first half performance and hand out grades:

STARTERS

PG #41 Darell Edwards

Per 36: 17.7 pts | 7.9 ast | 1.7 stl | 19.3 PER

Now in his 10th(!) season, Edwards remains the integral floor general for the Pioneers.  Edwards is key to Kansas City's balanced offense, pushing the ball in transition and spraying pinpoint passes around the court to set up his teammates.  Edwards shows some signs of age (his usage rate has dipped slightly each of the last three seasons) but he has adjusted to become more of a ball mover and spot-up shooter in the halfcourt rather than carry the burden of being a constant pick and roll playmaker.  Still, his experience and mental toughness remain indispensible to the Pioneers.

Grade: B+

SG #10 Colby Allan

Per 36: 25.2 pts | 6.2 rebs | 5.7 ast | 22.7 PER

Although playing the fewest minutes (29.7) of his career since becoming a starter in 2020, Allan remains Kansas City's go-to guy and top playmaker.  When the Pioneers need someone to get a bucket or create for others off the dribble, they turn to the former league MVP and 4-time All OBWL guard.  With more offensive talent around him then in prior seasons (especially at the wing positions) Allan has been content to be more of a facilitator early in games before taking the reigns when called upon.

Grade: A

C #42 Tony Jimenez

Per 36: 10.0 pts | 8.3 rebs | 3.4 blk | 14.1 PER

A former #17 overall pick for the Sacramento Snipers, Jimenez spent the last three seasons playing for the Auckland Crusaders in the OBDL before signing with the Pioneers in the offseason. The 7-foot Jimenez puts his wingspan and jumping ability to good use as a rim protector (1.8 blocks/foul ratio) as well as providing a modicum of scoring around the basket (nearly 62% shooting inside).  Jimenez has poor technique in man defense, but has done well enough in the team's high screen/roll and elbow sets and defensive scheme to merit quality minutes this season.

Grade: C  

PF #35 Andrew Sutton

Per 36: 12.0 rebs | 2.9 orbs | 5.8 blk | 13.6 PER
 
Sutton has started 273 of 280 games since signing with the Pioneers in 2020.  During that time the 8th year forward has become the spiritual successor to Dontae Grant as the Pioneers' defensive anchor.  Sutton ranks 7th in the OBWL in rebound rate (17.0), 12th in defensive rebond rate (24.4), 7th in Defensive Rating (89.9) and 2nd in blocks per 36 minutes (5.8).  Sutton doesn't contribute much on offense beyond a couple of layups down low and a few assists passing out of the high post each game, but his immense value on defense is easily seen in his team-high plus/minus (+12.2 per 36).

Grade: B+

SF #44 Marshall Gaudett

Per 36: 19.1 pts | 7.9 rebs | 3.2 ast | 2.1 stl | 20.7 PER

After a down year shooting the ball last season (43.7% overall, 34.6% from three) Gaudett has had a strong season so far, knocking down 48% overall and 38.8% from beyond the arc. Gaudett has played a career-low 24.8 minutes per game this season but fewer minutes and less responsibilty on offense since the arrival of wingman Mark Marble has seen the 9th year forward posting career highs in TS% (.568), points per shot (1.22), and the second highest assist to turnove ratio of his career (1.64).  Gaudett has always been a supremely versatile, team-first guy -- a player willing and able to play any position, any role, and any number of minutes the team requires to win games.

Grade: A

   

RESERVES

SG #32 Mark Marble

Per 36: 25.7 pts | 5.2 rebs | 3.6 ast | 21.2 PER

Signed to a max contract this past offseason (in a rare instance when the Pioneers actually had cap space available) two-time All Star Mark Marble has settled in as the team's "firestarter" off the bench.  A pure scorer on par with Colby Allan, Marble gives the Pioneers another player who is a deadly shooter and slasher, capable of creating shots for himself (30.3 usage rate) and others (career best 1.48 AST/TO rate).  Marble's ability to get the rim has seen him lead the team in free throw attempts (194) as well as inside field goals made and attempted.

Grade: B+

SF #25 Blake Cobb

Per 36: 20.2 pts | 9.5 rebs | 4.4 ast | 22.8 PER

Like Marshall Gaudett, Cobb has been a beneficiary of the addition of Marble to the roster.  Sliding into more of playmaking / secondary scorer role, Cobb is on pace to set career bests in several efficiency categories, including TS% (.608), PPS (1.27), assist rate (19.4), turnover rate (7.9), ORB rate (7.9), and PER (22.8).  The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Cobb and Marble form one of the best one-two punches off the bench in recent memory.  Unfortunately, Cobb and Marble will likely steal votes from one another in the Sixth Man race and the award will almost certainly go (deservingly) to the Sun Kings' Timothy Adler.

Grade: A-

C #45 Jessie Robertson

Per 36: 7.6 rebs | 2.6 ast | 5.7 blk | 1.6 pf | 13.0 PER

Now in his 5th season with Kansas City (it just feels longer), as usual what you see is what you get with Robertson: no offense, modest rebounding, good post defense, great shot-blocking, and very little fouling. At age 32 Robertson isn't getting any younger but he is as effective as ever in his designated role as the Pioneers' last line of defense in the paint.

Grade: B

PF #57 Austin Alexander

Per 36: 7.0 pts | 8.8 rebs | 2.0 stl | 3.1 blk | 14.9 PER

Signed by the Pioneers as a free agent on January 24th, Alexander has started 8 of 9 games since coming to Kansas City.  Although the team is 8-1 in that span, it remains to be seen if the 34 year old Alexander will remain a fixture in the starting lineup.  More likely he will split starts with Tony Jimenez as matchups and circumstances dictate.  Alexander was brought in primarily to give Kansas City some of the matchup flexibility it lost when Erik Thompson decided to sign with the New Jersey Evolution.  Alexander provides a different look than the other bigs on the roster, an attribute that could be useful in the playoffs.

Grade: B

PG #27 Ronald Evan

Per 36: 9.2 pts | 5.2 rebs | 5.1 ast | 3.1 stl | 10.7 PER

10th year veteran Evan remains the Pioneers' security blanket at point guard.  Now in his 7th season in KC, Evan plays sparingly as he is essentially the teams' third PG behind Edwards and Allan.  Evan provides solid defense, superior ballhawking, good rebounding, adequate passing, and poor shooting when called upon.  Still, Evan is versatile, playing both guard spots and even some small forward on occassion and shines when the team needs more pressure defense in the lineup.  Evan's ability to contribute in non-shooting and scoring categories inevitably keeps him in the rotation, albeit for only 10 minutes a game or so.

Grade: B-

PF #43 Chris Hauck

Per 36: 10.8 pts | 8.2 rebs | 52.2 FG% | 10.2 PER

A D-League signing now in his 4th season with the Pioneers, Hauck has carved out a more regular role off the bench this season as a third string C/F.  Hauck isn't flashy but he is physical and relentless player who crashes the defensive glass, plays adequate defense, sets screens, and finishes around the basket.  There isn't much that is exceptional about his game but he gives Kansas City 10 effort minutes per game off the bench.

Grade: C+

Friday, 19 January 2018 21:27

Schwalje Named 2021 OBWL Coach of the Year

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) – After a regular season that saw the Kansas City Pioneers tie the franchise record for wins with a league-leading 67-13 record, head coach Cosmo Schwalje was named 2021 OBWL Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.

Here are some of the highlights and records achieved this season by the 57-year-old head coach of the Pioneers following one of the most successful seasons in team history:

* In his 8th season as head coach of the Pioneers, Schwalje was named Coach of the Year for the second time, having previously won the award in 2018.

* On April 19th, Schwalje recorded his 500th career win with a 100-95 win in St. Louis.

* Schwalje ended the regular season with a career mark of 501-139 (.782).

* During his time in Kansas City, Schwalje has amassed 7 AmWest Division titles, 4 American Conference championships, and 8 playoff appearances.

* This season Schwalje successfully implemented a shift to a more up-tempo, wide-open offensive system than he has used in the past and as a result the Pioneers set team records for points per game, three point field goals made, three point field goals attempted, and assists.

"Over the years Coach Cosmo has proven he's one of the best at managing a roster and getting the most out of his players" said Pioneers GM Ben Johnson. "Not many head coaches can adapt so well to their players' talents and change offensive and defensive schemes as needed over the years. Coach Schwalje is one of the best tacticians and game coaches in the league and is well-deserving of the Coach of the Year award."

Thursday, 18 January 2018 16:43

Allan Named League MVP

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KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -- Kansas City Pioneers fifth-year guard Colby Allan has been named 2021 OBWL Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press. For the season, Allan averaged 29.7 points (3rd in the OBWL), 5.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.6 steals in 35 minutes per game. Allan shot a career-best 49.7% from the field (14th in the OBWL) and 43.3% from three (12th in the OBWL). Allan led the Pioneers to a league-leading 67-13 (.838) regular season record and the fourth American Conference championship in franchise history.

"First of all, I'd like to thank the Pioneers organization" said Allan at a press conference held at Kingsford Coliseum prior to the Pioneers' Game 1 matchup with the Vancouver Highlanders in the 2021 OBWl Finals. "Mr. Snyder, Ben (Johnson), Coach Cosmo (Schwalje), I appreciate you trading for me my rookie year, for believing in my talent and pushing me to be the best that I can be. I want to thank all the coaching staff, the trainers, the conditioning staff, the film and analytics guys, the chefs, the business office, the PR people, the operations staff at the arena... I just want to thank everybody in Kansas City who helped me go out and compete at a high level every night. I'm just really blessed to be in the position I'm in, standing here with this award today and I'm really appreciative" said Allan.

"Second, I'd like to thank my teammates for all of their hard work this year. Individual awards are nice, but I would trade the award for a championship any day. Basketball is a team sport. I want my team to be the best team in the league. I work as hard as possible to make that happen, and my teammates were right there with me, making me look good (laughs). I know I am hard on them sometimes but it's just because I want us to be the very best and I thank them for coming along and following my lead" said Allan.

"Lastly I want to thank the fans of Kansas City. You guys have embraced me with open arms since Day 1 and believed in me even though I had big shoes to fill here with Rudy Akamine, one of the all time greats. Pioneers fans love this team and have a lot of pride in their city and the players, and that just motivates me to go out and give 110% every night. So for that, thank you" said Allan.

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