RACINE — It’s early Saturday morning at the Bray Center, 924 Center St., and players on the Racine Storm men’s basketball team have already worked up a sweat.
Head coach Clinton Bryant, coming off working third shift as a truck driver for Imperial Laundry, had his players start practice early.
Game after game, a team of players with different backgrounds from different schools played five-on-five, improvising plays and running the fast break.
“It’s like I tell the players,” Bryant said, “I can’t teach you; you already have to know the game.”
The Racine Storm started as an exhibition team in Lake County two years ago.
Bryant agreed to coach the team last season, then known as the Lake County Stars, guiding them to a 15-4 record and a playoff team that came within two points in overtime of winning the Independent Basketball Association championship.
Before the start of the spring season, team owner Michael Tyler, an assistant attorney general at the Louisiana Department of Justice, made the decision to move the team from Lake County, Ill., to Racine.
Ken Hasty, general manager for the Racine Storm, said the team was moved to a better basketball community and also to attract more talent.
“Racine just has so many good players up here,” he said. “From the North Shore of Chicago to here, Racine has the best concentration of good players.”
Some of the players are familiar names from Racine Countyl basketball’s recent history: Devron Bostick and Reggie Bunch are from St. Catherine’s, Thomas Cobbs is from Case, Greg Morrisette from Horlick.
Others, like Jonathan Mandeldove, who played at the University of Connecticut from 2006-09, and Fred Durr, who played for Oklahoma Panhandle State University, represent a mix of players with major collegiate and professional experience playing overseas.
For many players, playing in the IBA is a means to staying in game shape, a chance to play professionally overseas or to get noticed by an NBA scout.
“To get a job, you need numbers and film from a credible league,” Hasty said.
League players do not command a salary. However, access to game film, league statistics and recognition playing in an established basketball league are all tools a player can use to market himself on a larger stage.
Abdul Jeelani, a program director at the Bray Center and a former Park High School standout who went on to play in the NBA as well as overseas professionally, praises Bryant’s work with area players.
“He keeps that dream alive for them,” he said. “Their careers would be all but over except for him.”
The Storm begins its 2014 spring season on Sunday, March 9, versus the Kenosha Ballers at 6:30 p.m. at the Kenosha Boys and Girls Club, 1330 52nd St., and make their home debut at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 15, at Case High School versus the Kankakee (Ill.) County Soldiers.