Getting off to running start

BayRunners tip off in IBL opener tonight at Arena

November 26, 1999|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ads on local radio stations present Kurk Lee urging Baltimore to come out and watch him light it up from three-point land.

That is what BayRunners coach Herb Brown wants and expects to see from Lee this inaugural season for the International Basketball League. Lee, whom Brown singled out as being a primary weapon in the team's first news conference, will play his first professional game in Baltimore tonight, when the BayRunners take on Trenton at 7 at Baltimore Arena.

It is one of four games tonight in the eight-team league. Richmond plays at Cincinnati, New Mexico is at St. Louis and San Diego at Las Vegas.

"It is our home opener, and if we want to have fans come out to our next game, we have to win our first game," said Lee, 31, who led Towson State to an NCAA tournament bid in 1990. "We expect around 11,000 fans to come, so if we want that every night, we have to win."

Many of Lee's opportunities will come from point guard Shawnta Rogers, whom Brown will want to push the ball upcourt at every opportunity.

Rogers is the only pro rookie on the team, after playing the past four seasons at George Washington University. Brown has assembled a mix of young players like Rogers and former Maryland standout Rodney Elliott with pro veterans Lee and former Washington Bullets No. 1 draft choice LaBradford Smith.

The team has practiced together the past three weeks and split two preseason games against Richmond. Brown said he feels comfortable that the BayRunners have grasped his up-tempo system well enough for an entertaining first night.

"We want to play up and down the court," Brown said. "But what we are trying to get them to understand right now is that you have to play half court. You've got to be able to stop the other team for 30 seconds. If they are getting back and stopping us from breaking, then we have to execute our offense. But if we get after them defensively, we'll be able to start our break."

Brown will look to run some of the half-court offense through Elliott, who Brown said had an outstanding training camp. Elliott, 6 feet 8, 230 pounds, will have the triangular international basketball lane to work with rather than the narrower NBA version.

IBL rules also call for a 30-second shot clock, a closer three-point line and zone defenses. Brown said he will play zone occasionally, but wants his team to be strong in man-to-man.

"We'll do zoning off the ball on the weak side, like they do in the NBA, although they say they don't," Brown said. "We'll change at times to speed up or slow down the game. There are a lot of different defenses we will show. We're more intent right now on trying to establish a defensive philosophy, a help philosophy."

Brown said the team is in good shape physically and ready mentally to face a Trenton squad it knows little about. Because of the limited preseason schedule, this will be the first time many of the IBL players face each other.

Trenton has former Florida State standout Lamarr Green and LaSalle's K'Zeil Wesson headlining its roster.

"I don't think that the guys are worried about guys on the other team, because there is so much stuff that we have to get down with the team," BayRunners forward Clifford Rozier said, "the offense and the defense, the pressing and the traps and the rotation. It is so much stuff that we have to get down here that we can't worry about anything else."

Trenton and the BayRunners will play again tomorrow night in Trenton.

"The first night is going to be a good night," Rogers said. "But we still have work to do. We still are trying to jell."

BayRunners 1999-2000 roster

Name ......................College ...................Ht ..........Wt

Mark Blount .............U. Pittsburgh .......6-10 ........240

Keith Booth .............Maryland ................6-6 ........225

Rodney Elliott ..........Maryland ...............6-8 ........230

Rob Feaster .............Holy Cross ............6-5........ 225

Steve Goodrich ........Princeton ............6-10 ........240

Paul Graham ............Ohio ......................6-6 ........215

Kurk Lee ...................Towson .................6-1 ........188

Billy McCaffrey ..........Vanderbilt .............6-3 .......180

Shawnta Rogers .......G. Washington .....5-4 ........158

Clifford Rozier ...........Louisville ..............6-9 ........235

LaBradford Smith ......Louisville ..............6-4 ........205

BayRunners tonight

Opponent: Trenton Stars

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7

Outlook: It's the first game for the BayRunners, who will play an up-tempo style. Shawnta Rogers will run the point, alongside former Towson State standout Kurk Lee. Former Maryland standout Rodney Elliott should provide the scoring down low. The Stars will look to Lamarr Greer and Garth Joseph (7 feet 2, 315 pounds) for scoring.

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