Rose City reunion
Brett Longpre reunited with high school coach in pro hoops debut
By BERND FRANKE, Tribune Staff
Monday, June 07, 2004 - 09:00
Local Sports - WELLAND - Brett Longpre enjoyed a happy homecoming Saturday night, leading the Niagara Gamblers to a 125-120
victory over the Brantford Connexion as professional basketball made its debut in Welland.
The Welland native netted 26 points, including a game-high five three-pointers, in his first home game in the Rose City
in more than nine years. The win evened Niagaras record in Ontario Professional Basketball Association league play at 1-1
heading into tonights rematch against the Connexion in Brantford.
Longpre, who paced the Gamblers in points with 20 in their 126-103 loss to the Waterloo Revolution in last Wednesday nights
season opener, said he didnt feel any pre-game butterflies before he stepped onto the basketball court in the McKenzie Athletic
Centre at Niagara College.
I didnt feel nervous at all, the six-foot-five, 185-pound guard added. Theres more of a comfort level than nervousness
when I play at home. Ive been playing this game for a while.
Longpres homecoming, which was witnessed by nearly 250 fans, was a long time coming. Though he grew up in Welland, Longpre
spent five years playing high school basketball at Governor Simcoe in St. Catharines. He spent the past four years playing
at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.
Longpre, who graduated from Mansfield as the second leading scorer in school history and as the all-time leader in three-pointers,
said the style of play in the fledgling league is more wide open than what he was used to playing in college.
It was much more structured at the university, he said. There, we had a system; here, we have talent. We have so much talent
that you have to go with that talent.
He agreed with the assessment that playing in the OPBA is like playing on all-star team.
But its an all-star team that will play together all year.
Longpre is playing with the Gamblers in hopes of showcasing his skills before recruiters representing pro basketball leagues
in Europe. He expects to sign with an agent sometime this week and wants to begin playing in Europe after the summer.
Im not really picky where I go, just some place safe, he said.
Playing with the Gamblers also is reuniting Longpre with Pat (Woody) Woodburn, his coach at Governor Simcoe. Woodburn is
on the bench as an assistant to Niagara head coach Scott Sorenson.
The long-time Redcoats coach said the new league has a lot going for it, especially the rim-rattling excitement of awarding
teams three points for dunks.
This adds a whole new dimension to the game, Woodburn suggested. Even when youre behind, youre never really out of it.
You just drive to the basket and start jamming.
All of a sudden, your back in the game.
After trailing 70-51 at the half, Brantford nearly came back to hand the Gamblers their second loss in as many starts.
However, Amin Norris pulled down several rebounds for Niagara when the Connexion threatened to take the lead midway through
the fourth quarter.
Brantford did enjoy some success dunking the ball in the late stages of the game, but by then it was too late and the Gamblers
were content to play out the clock.
Jamar Brown also collected 26 points to share the Niagara scoring lead.
Jermaine Nelson, with 18 points; Andre Humphrey and Brandon Woolen, with 12 each; and Kelan Williams and Dan Osby, 11 points
apiece, also hit double digits in scoring for the Gamblers.
Dubrey Black led 0-3 Brantford with 24 points while Deanthony Bowden added 22 points.