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Tuesday, 26 May 2020 09:15

Archers Draft and The Curse of Harry White

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ANAHEIM, CA - It's not usual, in a league so infatuated with youth, to see a team poised to select some of the most talented and youngest players it's seen declare for the draft in a while bail out of a top pick.  Deals in the lottery are not uncommon as the Pioneers showed last season when they moved all star guard Mack Lavoie to the Manhattan Swing for the rights to select Ambrose Vela.  However, never before in league history has a top three selection been traded.  Fans usually are fond of saying, "I like [X many] players but it really drops off after that," and that number has been three more than not.  A roll call of the players taken in the top three include John Newton, Andrew Jackson, Joe Aviles, Lynwood Emmert, Roger Desfontaines, Greg Santiago, Charles Ackerman, Andrew Evans, Randolph Wright, Byron Dambrosio, and more.  A top three pick is more likely to turn into a consistent starter and has a better than average chance at stardom.  

 

So it was not without a little bit of shock that the Archers traded their number three pick after lottery lightning struck and their pick (acquired from Philadelphia in the Frank Williams trade) jumped up to number 3 overall.  When the lottery drawing was announced, fans in Anaheim were abuzz with speculation.  Conventional wisdom said that the raw, physical specimen Danny Largent not not be available at that pick but hyper athletic point guard Roman Roberson or the seemingly limitless potential of Hobert Shell would be available.  It seemed like, finally, the Archers would break the curse of Harry White.  

 

White, whom the Archers drafted back in 2010 before the American Basketball League and National Basketball Association merged, was traded away in the middle of his rookie campaign after being a high selection and, since that time, White went on to win multiple championships, MVP awards, and was a lock for first team year after year.  The Archers. in contrast, have struggled to fill the position with a player who is considered a "classic point guard" or find any kind of consistent presence at the position.  The litany of broken players or players who were one and done is long.  

 

The infamous "[Adain] Blood in the Water" game against the Portland Lumberjacks in the Conference finals was the start of it.  After an injury to Hao Billups (who played a portion of the season in Anaheim and then went on to become a multiple time All Star in Quebec) left the Archers foundering, the Archers tried starting Blood who shot poorly and was feasted upon by Lumberjacks guards costing the Archers the crucial game and, eventually, the series.

 

Then, the Archers managed to have a season of stability with Jeremy Evans but could not break through to the finals under his leadership so the traded him and brought in legendary Swing and Thunderbirds point guard Rudy Olson.  Olson was the word in floor leadership and came into Anaheim with a hand full of championship rings that he had won with consecutive teams in New York and then Arizona.  The team was stacked with legends like Darryl Bailey and Yancy McCarthy along with the emergent start power of Mathew Cole.  The Archers broke Olson's string of consecutive championships that year and Olson was later traded.

 

After that, the Archers seemed to have abandoned the notion of the classic point.  Enter Hollis Warren, a shoot first point guard and defensive matador.  He was soon followed by Melvin Gadson who was a defensive ace but lacked classic point guard skills.  Then came the "forward point" Karl Holley who was a hybrid guard that amounted to about 50% point guard and 50% small forward.  Still trying to find a solution, enter stage left Pedro Richard (whose name was scorched into the collective consciousness of Archer faithful after he lead a Stallions team that bounced the Archers from what fans were sure was a trip to the Conference Finals) and then exit stage right Pedro.

 

The Archers then drafted James Wall who lead the Archers to a grueling championship run in his sophomore year.  The explosive point guard seemed to have the fire Anaheim fans craved in his first two years but it seemed that cooled into a slow burn after he reached the pinnacle.  Wall was then traded to Boston where he makes a living antagonizing Andrew Lawler in the Buzzards "next man up" system that lead them back to the finals this year.

 

So, while there have been championships, the Archers have had a near constant churn at the point guard position which is the position that is supposed to provide stability and be an extension of the coach on the court.   Hope was high in Anaheim on draft day.  Many thought that the exciting Hobert Shell would come to Anaheim and it would signify a nice bookend on "The Curse of Harry White" because they would draft, keep, and finally have the point guard that has been so coveted for over a decade.

 

On draft day, when the Commissioner announced a trade had been made at the time of the Archers' pick, fans held their breath.  Assembled fans in New York where the draft was being held shouted.  "Take the pick," said one and a chant of "Shell" started to echo.  When the Commissioner announced that the pick had been traded the boo's were so loud that they could not hear what the pick had dealt for.  Things were being thrown and general chaos broke out as some of the assembled (not Archers fans) laughed and jeered while Archer faithful threw things and ripped off their jerseys.  Once order was restored, it finally sank in what the pick was dealt for.... Fore.  Some of the thrown hats were recovered...

 

However, many were still hopeful that the Archers could land a point guard at the 9 pick.  Unlike other drafts, this one seemed to have several quality candidates to pick from but, instead of selecting the lightning fast Jake Stacy, OCBL player of the year Wilbert Slayton, or "raw with potential" Chris Sanchez, the Archers traded again.  The boos were not as loud this time and replaced by a general murmur of confusion and dread.  The pick was traded, the Archers were moving down.  Fans held their breath hoping Stacy would not be picked and they were rewarded... Stacy would surely be the pick.  When the Commissioner made the announcement for the number 11 pick it was... Mark Dixon?  Again, outrage from Archer fans assembled.  How could they not take Stacy or Slayton?  Didn't they learn their lesson after taking Erik Hall and Marc Desrousseau?  Twitter feeds were abuzz jokes about a new curse... the Curse of Gene Cantell.  

 

There was still hope though as the Archers acquired the #24 in the deal with Detroit and Stacy was being passed on by team after team.  "OMG, is this going to happen," said ArcherBlue41 on twitter, "If so, Stelle is GMOTY!"  Sadly, Stelle would not win GMOTY before the season had started because the New Jersey Enforcers took Stacy 7 picks before the Archers at 24.  All hope was lost when Slayton went at 22 just before the Archers were going to pick.  Instead, they selected the 6'9" highly athletic Burton Butler - a forward who drew comparisons to the top pick Largent in terms of size and speed but lacks the same level of skill.

 

Reporters caught up with Stelle as he left the Archers' war room and he paused for a brief statement when asked about fan reaction to the Archers' draft day.  "The objective of every team is to win a championship.  That's the mark we struggle toward.  The struggle is NOT to have a point guard or any other position for that matter.  I know that fans might say we're cursed, but we've won cups with Karl [Holley] and James [Wall] in the past... we can win it again.  There are levels of point guard play that I am prepared to accept if it gets us to that objective.  The Archers have been dormant far too long.  We have taken our licks for too long.  I am here to build winners and chew bubble gum... and I'm done chewing gum."

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