Sixteen of the 18 players have local ties as they get set to open play Saturday.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- A few months ago, Mahoning Valley Wildcats owners Frank Petrakos and Craig Mangie said they wanted to stock their new team with local talent.
They weren't lying.
"It was important to have local guys," said Petrakos. "That's what's going to get this community excited about this team."
The Wildcats, who begin their inaugural season in the 17-team International Basketball League on Saturday, released an 18-player roster on Thursday. All but two players -- guards Fess Irvin (LSU) and Sergio McClain (Illinois) -- have local ties, either from college or high school.
"That's what's great," said head coach and general manager Rob Spon. "There's a lot of local flavor and they're good."
Leading the local players
Some of the better-known players include Rick McFadden (Struthers), Mark Metzka (Springfield), A.H. Davis (Boardman) and Greg Foster (Ursuline).
"Frank and I insisted on keeping 17 guys," said Mangie. "That's going to be hard on [Spon], but they all worked hard and we felt they all deserve a chance to be on the team."
Spon plans on using a 10-player rotation, but he knows it's going to be tough to find minutes for everyone.
"But it's like I told the guys when they came in: Nobody's job is guaranteed," Spon, a Hermitage native who has coached in the International Basketball Association, said. "You've got to earn your minutes and that comes during practice and working hard during the games."
Opener against Akron
The Wildcats beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in an exhibition game on Wednesday in Sharon and will open the season against the Akron Lightning at 7 p.m. Saturday at Struthers Fieldhouse.
"I just hope the community buys into us and rallies around us," Spon said. "But you've still got to win. Winning brings people into the arena."
The Wildcats will play 20 games -- 10 at home -- and most of the games will be against teams in their "cluster," which cuts down on travel time and expenses.
Other teams in the Wildcats' cluster include Akron, Dayton, Detroit, Windy City (Ill.), Macomb County (Mich.), Grand Rapids (Mich.) and Battle Creek (Mich.).
IBL in second season
The IBL, which started last year in the pacific northwest, created two rules to eliminate dead time. Teams must inbound the ball immediately and can call only one timeout per 12-minute quarter.
Youngstown hasn't had much success with minor league basketball -- the Pride and the Hawks didn't survive -- but Spon thinks this can work.
"There are so many great basketball players out there and there's just not enough leagues," Spon said.
"Everyone's going to have a good team."