In his first sting as GM in the WSBA, AJ Rizzo was pegged as the new general manager of the Charlotte Wasps. Winning has always eluded Rizzo in his prior professional stops from the CSL with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets to the CSFL with the New England Patriots. Whether starting with talent or from scratch, Rizzo is always in it for the long haul. Rizzo’s keen eye for potential and the ability to develop young players should make him the ideal candidate for this franchise.
Rizzo inherits a coaching staff led by Stephane Thompson, a 65-year old defensive guru that’s also known as the Genius on the Greaseboard. HIs ability to make momentum-changing decisions on the fly are what separates him from a lot of the younger coaches in the league. This will come in handy when it comes to getting the most out of this young team. He’s also adept at player development so if there was ever a coach for the job, Stephane is the man! His offensive system is to play as fast as possible. A defensive coach running Seven Seconds? This should be fun! How will this work with the current personnel?
This Wasps roster leaves a lot to be desired. There is no franchise player to feel secure about building around and not enough talent to even threaten for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. We will do a quick run down of this team to see what this team is made of.
Any high-octane, fast-paced offense needs a trigger man to get them going. The 2nd year man out of Western Michigan, Chris Phillips, will be given the keys to the offense to start. The 5’11”, 185-pound 19-year old is constantly in attack mode and has a knack for scoring. While his ball handling could be better, his scoring should be lethal enough to make him a threat to score 20+ every night. His backup, 26-year old Trey Cromer, has better handles and a seemingly perfect stroke from outside, but is an abysmal passer and seems too afraid to shoot. What a combination.
Starting at shooting guard is Stephane Larson. The 6’8″ veteran brings even more shooting and slashing ability at the guard position, though like the guards mentioned above, lacks on the defensive end. SG Jason Kennard, another 6’8″ guard in just his 3rd professional season, will be the 6th man to start the season. He likes to, you guessed it, shoot it from the outside without playing much defense as well.
Starting small forward William Hassell is a break from the Charlotte norm as he’s a very strong defender everywhere on the floor and should be one of the best ball thieves in the entire WSBA. He also brings great intelligence to the floor to match his ability to score from deep and inside. A true 3&D player, Hassell could be a stalwart in the Wasp lineup for years to come…or flipped for picks in an eventual rebuild. The only other active SF on the roster, sophomore Joe Finley, is getting the start at power forward. He plays the position by name only because there isn’t anything he does that warrants him being a big man, a starter or even a true rotational piece.
For true power forwards, Marlin Jackson will be one of the first players off the bench for this team. At 6’11” and 242 pounds, Jackson looks the part of an old school big that likes to work on the block, draw tons of contact and, surprisingly, convert his free throws. If Coach Thompson were to toss him out there as the starting center, Jackson could surprise. Further down the depth chart is rookie 2nd round pick Clifford Leib. Like The Marlin, Leib loves to draw contact on the block, converts his FTs but also is a plus defender in the paint. Without much future in this type of offense, it will be interesting who lasts longer with the franchise: the coach or Leib.
At center, the Wasps will start Wahhab Pearson. The 31-year old big man stands at 6’11”, weighs 266 pounds and is nearly unstoppable on the block as he rarely misses when in close. Add in that he’s a strong defender in the post and Pearson is already garnering interest from contenders around the WSBA on acquiring him in a trade. While letting Pearson go would be tough, he deserve a chance to play for a winner. The other center on the roster, Ruben Turner, doesn’t bring much to the table besides a horribly bloated contract for two more seasons for a player that will be rotting at the end of the bench.
That’s the Wasps franchise in a nut shell. Hopefully by this time next season things will look much, much different.