One Big Shot

Bodies banging, shots falling and clanking. Huffing, puffing and hustling up and down the court. Rookies and guys who’ve played in state and minor league systems, guys who’ve played in Europe for years, guys scouted in summer basketball leagues. All entertaining hoops dreams, all trying to make the cut.
    The 28 players on the floor weren’t the only dreamers that hot July morning at Kilby Athletic Center in Severn.
    From fretting “man, I hope someone shows up,” Head Coach Pete Corriero moved a step closer to coaching a professional basketball team.

Shuckers Head Coach Pete Corriero.

    “That was a pretty good number. We signed guys we really liked,” said Corriero, who also coaches Fort Meade High School basketball.
    John Wolfe took a big step closer, too. Until then, Wolfe had owned a franchise, title and team name. Now the Bay Area Shuckers’ general manager and co-owner had six players toward a team.
On the Clock
    The Bay Area Shuckers joined the Atlantic Coast Professional Basketball League on May 16. Wolfe and his 10 co-owners had spent the previous year finding their league — and their sport.
    “It wasn’t necessarily going to be basketball,” said Rob Portch, assistant general manager and co-owner. Portch’s sports background is coaching football.
    The goal was to operate a minor league team — in any sport — as a prosperous business.
    Wolfe and co-owners Jim Hopkins, director of game day operations, and Paul Clary, director of public and community relations, spent a year observing the league.
    “We were comfortable in every aspect,” Portch said. “In the league we were joining, the team we’d be creating and the financial undertaking.”
    The now 10-team Atlantic Coast Professional Basketball League is comprised of teams as far south as Chesapeake, Virginia, and as far north as Buffalo, with the Shuckers smack in the middle.
    Joining the league put the Shuckers on the clock, with 202 days to the first time their squad would take the court.

No. 1

    Danny Quinn, from Towson University, is the new team’s first official signing. He’s a fitting match for the Bay Area squad. The six-foot-eight-inch, 235-pound forward is a local boy, playing at Archbishop Spalding High School, Towson University and now completing a local basketball trifecta, beginning his professional career in the area where he grew up.

“It just takes one good showing,” said Danny Quinn. And that was all he needed to win his spot on the Bay Area Shuckers.

    Quinn stood out in the mob of hopefuls, mostly out-of-towners.
    “There were a lot of people from a lot of places,” he said.
    As early as freshman year of high school, Quinn has had his eye on taking his talents to a higher level. Coaches courted him throughout his high school career, and he landed at Catholic University.
    After two years, Quinn decided Catholic wasn’t the right fit for him. His team’s rocky relationship with the coaching staff and its D.C. location contributed to his move.
    “I didn’t like it that much,” Quinn said. “So I transferred.”
    Towson University had eyed Quinn in high school. When the coaching staff heard he was transferring, the high school flame rekindled. Quinn made the move north to the Baltimore area.
    As a transfer, Quinn was required by NCAA rules to wear a red shirt and sit a year on the bench. He got pre-season reps touring with the Tigers in Canada the summer before his red-shirt year.
    During his final two years, Quinn was a key player in the team’s rotation. His size and versatility made him a spark for the team. Playing low in the post, Quinn can bang around with the big guys, snagging rebounds and cleaning up the garbage, hitting close-range shots. It’s his jumper, though, that makes him truly dangerous. Don’t play too far off of him or he’ll make you pay either from the wing or straightaway. Quinn can take advantage of mismatches, firing over smaller defenders or playing away from bigger guys, stepping away from the basket.
    Quinn finished his five-year college career with a degree in accounting but no guarantee of a future in basketball.
    “It was a little disappointing,” Quinn said. “We didn’t win that much.”

Second-Half Adjustments

    A ton of small things apart from the action on the hardwood go into creating the game-day experience. You have a roof over your head and a seat under your butt. Concession stands waft the smell of hotdogs and popcorn into the concourse. A team store sells hats and T-shirts.
    “Everything that goes into starting a sporting team, we’re in the process of doing,” Portch said. “Merchandise, concessions, all the way down to buying basketballs. We’re getting it all together for the first game, December 3.”
    The biggest piece of the puzzle was securing the venue. The Shuckers will play at Annapolis Area Christian School’s Kilby Athletic Center. An “absolutely beautiful state-of-the-art facility,” Portch called it.
    With the hoops and hardwood nailed down, it was time to get the team together.

Heeding the Call

    Shuckers’ management put out the call that basketball was coming to Anne Arundel County.
    Tryouts were July 30, and experienced players showed up to apply.

Llewellyn Smalley, an All-American at Hawaii Pacific University, is a veteran of eight professional seasons before signing with the Shuckers.

    “On my end, I spoke to a few college coaches,” Corriero said. “The owners went out to men’s leagues to do some pre-scouting.”
    The Shuckers examined talent in summer basketball leagues in Baltimore, Washington (including the famous Goodman League) and at Truxton Park in Annapolis. They talked to college coaches, agents and individual players, drumming up buzz.
    The team posted an online application to get the word out. That’s how Quinn caught wind of the July tryout.
    “A week before, my brother told me about it,” Quinn said. “I put my name in online, and Coach Corriero called.”
    Since graduating from Towson in the spring, Quinn has been working out with his brother, who is preparing for his own college basketball career. Valeting cars and studying for his CPA test, Quinn wasn’t expecting to be playing professional basketball stateside after college.
    “My first intention was to play overseas,” Quinn said.
    But with his coach at Towson fired after the season ended and the assistants and team managers also gone, Quinn didn’t seem to be going anywhere. He set aside his hoop dreams.

One Good Showing

    On the morning of July 30, Quinn walked into the Kilby Athletic Center unsure of what he’d find.
    “There were a lot of people there,” Quinn said. “It was more serious than I thought it’d be. I didn’t know a single person. I think I might’ve been one of the only Anne Arundel County guys.”
    The Bay Area Shuckers had drawn a wide range of players with varying levels of talent and experience. Some showed up with agents and representation.
    Tryouts began with conditioning to show who was in shape and who wasn’t. Next, players rotated through different stations of skill drills. The final 45 minutes of five-on-five scrimmage gave the guys a chance to show what they could do.
    “It just takes one good showing,” Quinn said. And that was all he needed. Throughout the tryout, Quinn didn’t miss many shots; he took advantage of the lack of size present and hauled in some rebounds and showed off his jumper, hitting a couple long NBA three-pointers.
    Afterward, staff asked him to stick around. Quinn guessed it was to talk to the media, but it was much bigger than giving out a couple of quotes.
    He and five others were signed on the spot.
    A second-round of tryouts will fill out the Shuckers squad. Ten players were asked back for that second look on August 20.
    “During the next couple days, we’re calling and saying thanks guys or come back and we’ll give you another look,” Wolfe said.
    “Now we’re looking for certain kinds of players to round out the roster,” Corriero said.
    The second tryout will be structured more like a regular practice, Corriero said. “We’ll see how the guys do in more of a half-court setting. We’ll devote more time to X’s and O’s rather than a skill-related practice.”
    With six men already signed, the second round of tryouts should be even more physical than the first.
    The League allows a roster of up to 15 men. Coach Corriero says keeping 15 guys would be ideal but he thinks only 10 to 12 will be necessary.
    “If we can get another three guys,” he said, “we’ll feel good.”
    Then all they’ll have to do is win the fans.

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