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Coach says Daredevils departure from Niagara ‘inevitable’
Opponents in Rochester paid players, provided meals and transportation for Thursday’s game

By Ben Stevenson, Osprey News Network
Local Sports - Saturday, November 26, 2005 @ 01:00

The Niagara Daredevils are so desperate financially, their American Basketball Association opponents in Rochester paid each of them about $300 and provided transportation and meals for the St. Catharines basketball team to travel to the game in Rochester Thursday.

After a week without a gym to practice in, losing five players (including key starter Majestic Mapp) and amid controversy surrounding the economic stability of the team, the nine-player squad managed to pull out a 116-111 win over the Razorsharks for a 3-1 record and a second-place spot in the Connie Hawkins division.

“We are not going to give up,” said Daredevils Coach Otis Hailey Friday in regards to the struggle the team is having off the court. “These players are trying to get to the next level. They have to make some sacrifices.”
Other than Thursday’s travel money from its opponents, the players have yet to be paid.

“Al tries to make this work, but he doesn’t know how,” said Hailey. “He is basically running this team away because of his reputation. Regardless of the issue, I’m still going to win.”

Both Hailey and his assistant coach Michael Kennedy (who was forced to dress Thursday to round the roster at nine) said leaving the Niagara region is inevitable for the Daredevils.

“When we win, it makes our sell much easier,” said Kennedy, who helped the Daredevils come back from a 19-point hole at halftime Thursday.

“It’s unfortunate the (playing) environment here is polluted and that is why we won’t be here much longer. It’s unfortunate because we know we can win this championship.”

Kennedy added he didn’t know whether or not the team will play Sunday and Tuesday’s home games against Buffalo and Northeast Pennsylvania respectively



staff photo by Bob Tymczyszyn
Niagara Daredevils president Al Howell sits on the team bench before a game at Jack Gatecliff Arena recently.

Photo: staff photo by Bob Tymczyszyn

Daredevils face crunch
Basketballs aren't the only thing that's bouncing with local hoops team

Bernie Puchalski, Standard Staff
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’ employ.

“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 paid.

“You would have to ask them that. That’s a private matter, between the team, coaches and players,” Howell said.

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 Buffalo Rapids.

“We will make a decision Friday in terms of how we will move forward and when we will move forward,” he said.

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.

Hardwick 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 Daredevils website.

“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 said.

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.

The 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.

“My 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.

“At 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.

“The 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.”


Nov 24: Dardevils rock Rochester

Nov 24: No Pay No Play

Nov 19: Full House and a Win

Nov 19: Daredevils Change Venue

Nov 16: Dardevils Dunk To Victory

Nov 15: What does the Calendar Say?

Nov 14: Daredevils Jack em' Up

Nov 12: Silence the Sound with Swishes

Nov 8: Schools Out

Nov 4: OT loss in opener

Oct  26: Getting Wild

Oct 26: Hooters on Hold

Oct 24: A little off the Top

Oct 21: Intersquad game

Oct 21: Training camp opens

Oct 19: Sweat in the sneakersDan Dakin, The Review

Oct 18: Playground Whiz signed

Oct 12: Jamil Jams in Niagara

Oct 11: 7'2" Sellers signs

Oct 10: A chance to dance

Oct 8: A Penny for your thoughts

Oct 6: Shelby as Light as a Feather

Oct 3: Shreik for the Sheik

Oct 1: Open Tryout Trials 

Sept 27: White signed

Sept 20: Walton signed   

Sept 15: Four More for the show

Sept 14: Ward of the State

Sept 8: Little Light Shed on Daredevils Operation

Sept 6: Sound the Horne4531b.jpg

Aug 30: On the Mapp

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