Daredevils face crunch Basketballs aren't the only thing that's
bouncing with local hoops team Bernie Puchalski, Standard Staff
Niagara Daredevils president Al Howell sits on the team bench before a game at Jack Gatecliff Arena recently.
Photo: staff photo by Bob Tymczyszyn
Local Sports - Friday, November
25, 2005 @ 01:00
Owed thousands of dollars by the Niagara Daredevils American Basketball Association team, Matt Scobel
left the St. Catharines franchise Nov. 2.
“It was getting to the point that it became apparent to me the man
(president Al Howell) wouldn’t get the financing to make it happen.”
The team’s former director
of business operations kept quiet about his departure because of the relationships he had formed while working in the Daredevils’
“I was hesitant to come to the media because I cared about the coaching staff and players,” said
the Niagara Falls native, who previously worked with the Mississauga-based Cosmos Sports sports management company. “They’re
all trying to get to the next level.”
The decision to come forward was finally prompted by a call from the designer
of the club’s website, who said he was upset after a cheque for his services bounced.
Scobel said he estimates
he is owed about $8,000 by the Daredevils.
He was given a cheque from Al Howell on Sept. 17 for $2,500, written on
the account of the Calgary Drillers Basketball Club, an ABA team with whom Howell was involved with last year. The team folded
in February 2005.
Scobel said the cheque bounced, but not before he said he had charged basketballs, gas purchases
and a truck rental on his own credit card thinking the team was good for the money.
“It was in that window when
I had been paid,” he said.
As the team’s former director of business operations, Scobel said he believes
the Daredevils have about $80,000 in unpaid bills floating around the city, including $40,000 at the Howard Johnson Hotel
in St. Catharines.
Howell, contacted for an earlier story Monday night, denied the team owed the hotel that much money
or that it was kicked out for not paying its bill.
“Our deal with them is we were there for training camp. We
do owe them money, but it has nothing to do with us moving out of there,” Howell said.
Thursday, Howell refused
to talk about Scobel’s claims.
“You will have to ask Matt Scobel that. We’re not discussing those
matters with anybody,” he said.
According to Scobel, included in the list of unpaid bills are the salaries of
the players and the coaching staff.
Earlier in the week, Howell said the players would be paid Tuesday but, according
to team sources, that has yet to happen.
According to sources, O’Neil Kamaka left the team last Friday when
he wasn’t paid; former Brock Badger Morgan Fairweather departed the team Monday night; Majestic Mapp paid for his own
bus ticket home to New York City Tuesday night; and, Matt Luedtke, his wife Kristen and two-month-old daughter Maddie, were
driven to the Buffalo airport Thursday afternoon by Fairweather.
Luedtke was contacted by The Standard Monday night
but didn’t want to be named in hopes of getting paid Tuesday.
“That’s the only reason I’m
still here, to be honest with you,” he said Monday.
He said that he would have to borrow money from relatives
to afford the plane trip home.
Howell refused to confirm Mapp and Luedtke left the team because they weren’t
“You would have to ask them that. That’s a private matter, between the team, coaches and players,”
The Daredevils defeated Rochester 116-111 Thursday, overcoming a 59-40 deficit at halftime with 42 points
in the fourth quarter.
Howell wouldn’t comment on the status of Sunday’s home game at 3 p.m. against the
“We will make a decision Friday in terms of how we will move forward and when we will move forward,”
He declined to give reasons for the team’s cash crunch.
“There was a variety of reasons
which made the start difficult.”
Mark Hardwick said he met with Howell in a Tim Hortons in late July
and the two agreed Hardwick’s one-man firm, MHMedia, would design and update the Niagara Daredevils website.
said he sent Howell a bill for $2,835 on Oct. 8 and after two weeks of not receiving a cheque that was “in the mail,”
he phoned Howell and the two met Nov. 11 in a parking lot at Highway 406 and Regional Road 20.
Hardwick said Howell
handed him a cheque written on the account of the Calgary Drillers Basketball Club.
“I didn’t think anything
of it but six days later the cheque bounced on me,” Hardwick said.
To say it put him in dire straits financially
is a stretch, but it still hurt.
“I’m a regular human being. I have bills to pay and a wedding coming
up. This is a business I’m trying to build.”
Hardwick said he called Howell again and had a less than
pleasant conversation. He said he called Howell again Wednesday and when no return call was forthcoming, he shut down the
“In my eyes, it’s like a cellphone. If you don’t pay your phone bill, it gets
cut off,” Hardwick said.
What has happened has left Hardwick frustrated and sad.
“To me, there’s
a lot of people losing money and a lot of people getting hurt.”
And the big sports fan is also worried about
the perception of sports in Niagara.
“I don’t like to see Niagara taking another hit on a basketball team.
This area is getting a bad name for sports and it’s such a great area with junior hockey and lacrosse,” Hardwick
Howell refused to discuss his contract with Hardwick.
“Why would I discuss this matter in a public
way?” Howell said.
Howell isn’t happy his team is without a website presence and said he would be paying
Hardwick and retaining his services.
“All and any of our obligations will be met shortly,” he said.
O’Neil Kamaka experienced the life of a professional basketball player in Macedonia and Latvia.
30-year-old native of Jamaica, who played his high school ball at Oakwood Collegiate in Toronto before going on to a two-year
stint with NCAA Division 1 St. Mary’s College of California, didn’t treasure the experience.
experiences overseas is it was sort of a hustle. Sometimes when you played for a team it wouldn’t pay you. It’s
frustrating when you are far away from home,” the 6-foot-5 guard/forward said.
With a family, a job at Ryerson
University in Toronto and a position with Raptors TV’s Heaney on the Hardwood program, Kamaka wasn’t interested
in another overseas expedition.
But when it was announced that the American Basketball Association had awarded a franchise
to St. Catharines, his interest was piqued.
He made the team, and said he signed a contract that was to pay him $600
US a week.
On Nov. 15, Kamaka was expecting to receive two weeks pay. When he said that didn’t happen, he refused
to practise. He was told the team would receive three weeks pay last Thursday but he didn’t believe it.
this point, it’s a living. You’re not on scholarship and you’re trying to earn a living. Having gone through
the process before, I didn’t want to go through it again.”
Kamaka said he was summoned to coach Otis Hailey’s
hotel room and was told if he didn’t play, he would be released.
“It was cool with me,” Kamaka said.
“I didn’t go into it thinking they would fail but you have to weigh things. I was hoping for the best
and preparing for the worst.”
And even though he didn’t get paid, he enjoyed the experience.
guys I played with are really talented. I was really impressed,” he said. “It was nice to be a role player.”
Kamaka, who has played against NBA players in the past, said he believed at least a half dozen of the Daredevils are
good enough to play in the NBA if given a chance.
Many of the Daredevils are chasing the dream of playing in the NBA
and Kamaka can understand why some are sticking it out in hopes of getting paid.
“If I didn’t go through
what I went through overseas and I was hungry and wanted to play, I might have stayed.”
Playing is important
for one major reason.
“Game tapes are sort of your resume.”