Curtis Wilson and DaShawn Freeman have found themselves on the opposite ends of the spectrum in the Butte Daredevils camp this week as the expansion Continental Basketball Association (CBA) team prepares for the nearing season.
Wilson is a true veteran, a 29-year-old seasoned by previous years of minor-league pro basketball, grasping at the edge of the National Basketball Association’s jackpot paydays. Freeman, though in veterans camp, is a rookie, but he was the No. 5 selection of the Daredevils in the CBA draft held at the end of September. Now they are teammates, at least until final cuts, and partners in pursuit of the same dream.
The Daredevils will play the 24 home games on the 48-game league schedule in the Butte Civic Center. As of Wednesday, 11 players were in camp and two more were expected. As many as 17 might be auditioned in the exhibition season prior to the regular season opener on Dec. 1 when all rosters must be pared to 10.
Freeman is a 5-foot-10 point guard out of Sacramento State where he was the 2006 Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year and an all-conference first-teamer. He is the only Daredevils draft pick the club has yet signed. But the team is keeping a close watch on second-round choice Chris Quinn, a Notre Dame See DAREDEVILS, Page B6 product who the NBA’s Miami Heat also liked. And Quinn has been seeing some minutes of time with the Heat early in the NCA season, Joe Clark, Daredevils co-owner and general manager, noted.
Wilson, nicknamed “Cesar” and “Big Kizzy,” was one a first-team pick to the Sun Belt Conference all-league team as a University of New Orleans standout. He also had junior college experience at Porterville (Calif.), and has spent recent seasons as a European league pro, playing for teams in France and Finland. Wilson said he has also seen time in the American Basketball Association, a minor league similar to the CBA.
“It was a good time playing in Europe,” the 6-8, 245-pound power forward said. “Then I was excited to come here. I wanted to give it a try in the States. I wanted to see what I could do here.
“And I’m really excited to get it going. We have a good bunch of guys, a good, positive bunch.” The CBA Web site says that 32 former CBA players are on NBA rosters, including five who played in the minor league last year — Matt Freije (Atlanta Hawks), Ronny Turiaf (L.A. Lakers), Stephen Graham (Portland Trail Blazers), Brian Chase (Utah Jazz), and Roger Powell, Jr. (Utah Jazz). The Pittsburgh Xplosion franchise recently announced the signing of former West Virginia star Kevin Pittsnogle.
The CBA-level schooling has been a crash course the first three days of practice, Freeman said.
“I’m the smallest dude on the court by far,” he said with a smile. “It’s been really fun getting to know the palyers and coaches. I’m happy to be here. Practices have been going good, getting introduced to the players and coaches. But it’s been good.” Others in camp are 6-9, 225-pound forward Chris “Shakin” Bacon, 6-1, 190-pound guard David Bell, 6-5, 228-pound guard/forward Carl “Cash” Boyd, 6-4 guard/forward Odell Bradley, 6-5, 205-pound guard Maushae Byles, 6-4, 215-pound guard/forward Jason Harris, 6-3, 175-pound guard Javon Harris, 6-1, 195-pound guard Matt Luedtke, 6-4, 190-pound guard Booker Nabors, 6-10 and 280-pound center Nick Vanderlaan.
The team will play an intrasquad game on Sunday at 8 p.m. at Bozeman Senior High School, then will play another on Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. in Helena at the Carroll College P.E. Center. It will have an exhibition game in Butte on Nov. 25 with a 7:15 p.m. tip-off scheduled, and the regular season-opener is planned for Dec. 1 against the Indiana Alleycats in the Civic Center.
“If we practice and play hard, we have an opportunity in every game,” head coach Scott Carson said as he assessed the talent on the Butte roster so far.
Freeman said he spent the summer trying to polish his game in Sacramento summer league play, going against the likes of NBA vets Bobby Jackson and Orlando Woolridge. Freeman is from Oakland, Calif., originally, and was coached in high school by former Butte Copper Kings baseball player Terrell Lowery (who played college basketball with the late Hank Gathers at Loyola Marymount), George Polich, Daredevils assistant GM said.
Freeman said one of the tougher adjustments has been in altitude — as in location instead of physical height.
“I come from sea level, so going from 0 to 5,000 feet is quite an adjustment,” he said. “The air is thin. I have to get in shape for it and get strong.” Still, the rookie prospect said the players all arrived in camp in good shape, but said the running in air thinner than accustomed to has been exhausting.
The players will be putting on a kids clinic in the Civic Center on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m.
Short biographies, as provided by the Daredevils, and the team’s practice schedule for the rest of the month follow: Chris Bacon — 6-9, 225, power or small forward. Played college ball at Nevada and Nicholls State. Had NBA workouts with the Seattle SuperSonics, Houtson Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. Has pro experience in Mexico and was a National Basketball Association Development League (NBADL) draftee. Is from Baton Rouge, La., and was a college “newcomer of the Year” award-winner.
David Bell — 6-1, 190, point or shooting guard. Played college ball at Montana after transferring from Porterville (Cali.f) College. Has played pro ball in Finland and Switzerland. Was the University of Montana Athlete of the Year his senior year and was a prolific 3-point shooter for the Grizzlies. He is from Oakland, Calif.
Carl Boyd — 6-5, 228, shooting guard or small forward. Played college ball at Porterville and then at California. Has played professionally in China, Austria and South Korea. Received a defensive player award. He is from Beloit, Wis.
Odell Bradley — 6-4, 245, shooting guard or small forward. Played college ball for Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis (IUPUI) and played pro ball in The Philippines, Austria and South Korea. He is from Beloit, Wis., and lists being 2004 Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year, honorable mention All-American and MVP pf the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament among his honors.
Maushae Byles — 6-5, 205, shooting guard. Played college ball at Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis (IUPUI) and has no previous pro experience. He is from Racine, Wis., and lists being picked Sixth Man of the Year in the Mid-Continent Conference and student-athlete of the month at IUPUI among his honors.
DaShawn Freeman — 5-10, 175, point guard. Played college ball at Sacramento State and has no previous pro experience. He is from Oakland, Calif., and was a 2006 Big Sky Conference first-team honoree, and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Jason Harris — 6-4, 215, shooting guard or small forward. Played college ball at Sacramento State. Has no previous pro experience. He is from Corpus Christi, Texas, and lists being voted Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year and first-team All-Big Sky among his honors.
Javon Harris — 6-3, 175, point or shooting guard. Played college ball at the University of San Francisco. Has played professionally with the San Francisco Pilots of the American Basketball Association and the San Jose Ballers of the International Basketball League. He is frm Richmond, Calif., and lists having been picked an ABA All-Star among his honors.
Matt Luedtke — 6-1, 195, guard. Played college ball at Montana-Western and has played professionally with the San Jose Skyrockets and the Niagara Daredevils, both of the ABA. He is from Ronan, and was an all-Frontier Conference first-team pick.
Booker Nabors — 6-4, 190, shooting guard. Played collegiately for Boise State and has not played professionally previously, but did get a workout with the Idaho Stampede of the NBADL. He is from Boise and lists being chosen to the Big West Conference All-Freshman Team and a member of the 1,000-point club as being among his honors.
Nick Vanderlaan — 6-10, 280, center. Played collegiately for Concordia (Irvine, Calif.) and for Virginia. Played professionally for the Idaho Stampede when they were in the CBA and for the Long Beach Jam of the ABA. He is from Sacramento, Calif., and lists being picked an NAIA first-team All-American as among his honors.
Curtis Wilson — 6-8, 245, power forward. Played collegiately for Porterville and also for the University of New Orleans. Has played professionally in France and Finland. He is from Beloit, Wis., and listed being picked to the Sun Belt Conference all-conference first team as being among his honors.
Practice schedule — Thursday ,10 a.m. to noon. Friday, 10 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, 10 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27, 10 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.