After dropping the first three games on their east coast road trip the Windsor Express won two of three to end a nearly month long journey which spanned from mid-November to December.
The voyage started rough as the Express lost to Saint John, Halifax and Moncton. During this skid Windsor committed 59 turnovers. Their bench was outscored 79 to 115 and easy buckets were hard to come by with a lack of scoring around the rim. Points in the paint totals made up for less than half of their overall points during each of the three contests.
Following their loss to Halifax, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the Express. As forward Greg Surmacz approached me I truly thought he was going to destroy me or something before the interview was over. Furious was Surmacz after an 18 point loss. The former Windsor Lancer said the team was struggling to come together and everyone needs to look in the mirror in order to figure out how they can get better.
Mike Helms was also disgusted after the Halifax loss. Helms was ejected from the game after arguing some questionable calls.
“We got a group of young guys in which this is their first professional experience,” said the Detroit native. “Some don’t know the grit and grind of how to play and travel at this level.”
Coach Bill Jones agreed with Helms admitting that the team needed more veteran players to compete in the league. Changes had to be made and that’s exactly what Windsor’s management did.
First they acquired guard Darren Duncan from the Halifax Rainmen for a third-round draft pick in 2013. Duncan an all-star point guard last season was brought in to be the floor general, freeing up Mike Helms to play the shooting guard position.
In Duncan’s first game with the Express he dropped 29 points and nine assists in a loss to Moncton. He has scored 20 or more in every game for the Express and is averaging nine assists since joining the team. Not a bad first impression. Duncan clearly is an elite player in this league. If he can reduce turnovers and up assists for Windsor, then championship contention will follow.
Windsor also added Stefan Bonneau, Chris Commons and Lester Prosper to its roster. New York’s Stefan Bonneau is a tough guard who likes to score and can get up considering the former 2012 NCAA Division II First Team All-American has a 44 inch vertical. Chris Commons was recently playing in Finland where he averaged over 15 points a game. At 6’8 Commons can play both guard and forward which gives Coach Jones lots of options. Plus he has played professionally in Germany, Asia, and the Middle East.
This is exactly what Jones requested from management more veteran players. Rounding out the roster is new centre in Lester Prosper, a former Moncton Miracle. In college Prosper averaged 13 rebounds and three block shots a game at Old Westbury.
Even though Windsor went two and four on their road trip, they accomplished a lot as a franchise. They learned that youthfulness sometimes equals inexperience and not everyone can cut it as a pro. Moving forward they have a dynamic back court in Duncan and Helms which will hopefully result in a high assists to turnover ratio. In the front court Commons and Surmacz are both big bodies that can attack off the dribble post up and shoot the three. With Prosper holding down the paint, the Express seem to have the soldiers ready to bring the team back to .500 and hopefully peak come playoff time.
As Mike Helms said it’s a grind, something the city of Windsor is use to.