By: Brian Dickmann
Photo via Green Bay Phoenix
Alfonzo McKinnie is poised for a big season this year for the Green Bay Phoenix. The 5th year senior will be a key figure in Green Bay's quest to repeat as Horizon League regular season champions as well as accomplish their goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.
The 6' 8" forward from Chicago transferred to Green Bay two years ago after a very successful sophomore season at Eastern Illinois, averaging 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game for the Panthers. An effective scorer, his 56.7% field goal percentage was good for 2nd in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2011-2012, and his 7.0 rebounds per game were 5th highest in the league. He was forced to sit out the 2012-2013 season with the Phoenix due to NCAA transfer rules.
McKinnie endured a frustrating season a year ago. He suffered a right knee injury in camp prior to the season. When it started bothering him last October, he got it checked out and it was discovered that he had a torn meniscus. He underwent surgery the next day and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Head Coach Brian Wardle said in a statement at the time that “Alfonzo’s surgery went well and he has already gotten the rehab process underway. We expect this will only be a minor setback for Alfonzo, but we will be very conservative and diligent with the process. He is going to be a major part of our team this season, and we look forward to getting him back on the court with his teammates.”
McKinnie eventually would make his Green Bay debut on December 21st, two months after his surgery, in a non-conference game against Fairfield at the Resch Center. He was understandably rusty, having sat out the entire previous season as well as coming off a significant knee injury. Playing only 6 minutes, he would end up going 0-2 from the field, but did grab two rebounds before picking up 3 quick fouls. "There was a little confidence issue with my knee going into the game, but once I got going I didn't think of it" McKinnie said this week at the annual Green Bay basketball media day.
He wouldn't play again until mid-February due to continuing issues with the knee. But he was able to contribute down the stretch last season and help the team to its first regular season championship since 1996. McKinnie averaged 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while playing around 12 minutes per game in his 9 appearances.
"I'm still getting to 100%" said McKinnie. "I'm still rehabbing every day. I kind of took the summer off as far as working out, basketball wise. I pretty much got stronger, did rehab, and did physical therapy a lot just to get my knee strong for this season."
One aspect that Phoenix fans were able to get a glimpse of last year was his outside shooting. After never attempting a three point field goal in two seasons at Eastern Illinois, McKinnie made 6 of 13 (46.2%) of his three point attempts in his limited appearances last year. "That's something else I was working on this off-season. Just getting a lot of shots up, trying to get that muscle memory in tact" he said.
When healthy, he is capable of highlight reel plays, including high flying dunks like the SportsCenter Top Ten dunk he posterized former NBA All-Star Shawn Marion with. "It's going to be crazy" McKinnie said, speaking about the team's athleticism. "It goes from the big guys on down to the point guard."
Green Bay will need him to help fill the void left behind by NBA Draft pick Alec Brown. McKinnie's versatility and ability to play multiple positions should mean big minutes for him, as long as he is able to remain healthy.
By: Brian Dickmann
Photo via Newcastle Eagle
Former Green Bay Phoenix star guard Rahmon Fletcher has returned to professional basketball in a big way. The 2011 UWGB graduate has helped lead his Newcastle Eagles team to a British Basketball League leading 4-1 start.
Fletcher, 25, took last season off and signed with Newcastle this past summer. He told the Eagles website that last season "the right situation never came and teams looked over me."
Prior to joining Newcastle, Fletcher played two seasons in the Netherlands where he averaged 14 points and 4 assists per game.
"I’m honored to sign with this organization and I will do everything I can to be the best for the team and do whatever it takes to bring a championship to Newcastle" Fletcher told the website.
“We feel with Rahmon we have signed a floor general who can lead our team but also has the capability to choose when it is time for himself to step up to get his own shot. We also feel that his personality will be the right fit for our team and our club" said Eagles assistant coach Dave Forrester.
After dropping their first game of the season at home against defending playoff champion Worcester, Newcastle has won their last 4 games and sit in a first place tie in the league.
The Newcastle Eagles are one of the most prestigious basketball clubs in the United Kingdom, winning 6 regular season championships, including last season.
Fletcher is averaging 12.2 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in a little over 28 minutes per game this season. He said, "for me personally I’m finding my way. This team has really accepted me and allowed me to take it over as their point guard and that gives me the confidence to flow through.” His confidence has been starting to show in earnest in the last two games, scoring 17 points in both games while dishing out 8 and 5 assists, respectively.
"We stick together and win together. If one part falls apart then we all fall apart as we’re like family and we watch each others backs. This is a great team to play in and a great club to be part of" said Fletcher.
Rahmon Fletcher will always be considered one of the top Green Bay players in program history. He ranks in the top ten in school history in career points (1,678), field goals made (633), field goals attempted (1,338), three point field goals made (150) and attempted (399), assists (438). His 197 career steals rank 2nd in program history behind only Terry Evans' 237.
Next up for the Newcastle Eagles is a home game vs Surrey United on Friday followed by a road contest at the London Lions on Sunday.
By: Brian Dickmann
(Photo via Rock River Times)
Antoine Pittman and Julian Torres gave verbal commitments to the Green Bay Phoenix following their official visits to Green Bay this past weekend.
Pittman is a 6' 3" shooting guard from Rockford, IL and is a top 20 prospect in Illinois' class of 2015.
He helped lead Auburn High School to a 28-6 overall record and a 14-2 league record on the way to a Northern Illinois Conference championship last season. He finished second in the conference in scoring at 16.3 points per game and also finished in the top 5 in rebounding with 6.5 rebounds. Prep Hoops Illinois named him to their All-Summer Awards third team as a top performer on the AAU circuit this summer.
His scouting report from Chicago Hoops says Pittman is "best attacking his man and powering his way to the hoop with his superior strength where he finishes through contact. His jumper has good form and has potential to continue to develop. He also likes to get out in transition. Pittman is a great rebounder for a guard. Defensively, he locks in and defends on the perimeter." His jump shot as well as his range has much improved over the summer.
He chose Green Bay over scholarship offers from Nevada, Northern Illinois, Chicago State, SIU-Edwardsville, and Tennessee State.
Torres is a 6' 9", 240 lb big man from Bolingbrook, IL. He plays his AAU ball for Mac Irvine Fire, which boasts alumni such as Keifer Sykes, Jahlil Okafor, and new Bucks draft pick Jabari Parker.
He has seen his recruiting explode this summer, with the website PrepHoopsIllinois.com calling him one of their "Biggest stock raisers". In the process he gained scholarship offers from Green Bay, UIC, Chicago State, Bradley, Northern Illinois, and SIU-Edwardsville.
He took part in the FIBA U-18 World Championships this summer in Dubai playing for the Puerto Rican national team, helping them to a 5th place finish. Appearing in 4 games, he averaged 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.3 minutes of action.
The recruiting website Krossover lists Torres as a player that "moves around the court gracefully for a kid his size. He has a nice touch around the hoop, is a good passer, and shoots the ball well out to the three point arc."
Green Bay has 1 open scholarship remaining for the 2015 recruiting class to replace the outgoing senior class of Keifer Sykes, Josh Humphrey, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Greg Mays. Joel Okafor, a 3-star recruit from Indiana, gave a verbal commitment to the Phoenix earlier this summer.
By: Brian Dickmann
(Photo via USA Today)
Head coach Brian Wardle and the Green Bay Phoenix have landed their first commitment for the class of 2015. Joel Okafor, a 5' 11" point guard from Richmond, Indiana gave a verbal commitment to GB over the weekend.
Okafor is rated a 3-star prospect according to ESPN with a 77 grade and a top 10 player in the basketball crazed state of Indiana. He would be the first 3-star recruit the Phoenix have signed since Alec Brown in 2010, though not all prospects have been graded.
He is considered a pass-first point guard and an excellent defender. His shooting is improving, with his high school coach Joe Luce recently saying, "offensively, that’s something he needs to work on, not necessarily the skill, but the mindset, and he’s done that. He’s shot the basketball and scored the basketball well throughout the summer.”
Starting for Richmond ever since his freshman year, Okafor is coming off a stellar junior season in which he earned all-North Central Conference accolades as well as IBCA / Subway Underclass All-State First Team after scoring 8.5 points per game and leading his team with 6 assists and over 2 steals per contest.
He helped lead the Red Devils to 22-3 season last year, finishing with their first conference title in 12 years and the school's first sectional title since 1996.
Okafor chose Green Bay over offers from Western Michigan, Middle Tennessee State, and Horizon League rival Wright State.
The Phoenix will have to replace 4 seniors following this season: Keifer Sykes, Josh Humphrey, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Greg Mays, along with an open scholarship from Lamin Fulton leaving the team this season. With the commitment of Okafor, Green Bay still has 4 scholarships available for the class of 2015.
The Green Bay Phoenix had plenty of high flying dunks this season. To be exact, the Phoenix dunked the ball 97 times, according to GB's SID Andrew Gavin. That's over 3 dunks per game! In our first video of the off-season, we countdown our five favorite, plus a few a others.
As we get ready for another season of Green Bay basketball, check back often for a season preview, predictions, videos, and more. Don't forget to join in the conversation on the message board as well as follow us on Twitter. Thanks for reading and Go Phoenix!