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Express looking to make run with new names, returning league veterans

Windsor Express big men Nick Evans (left) and Lester Prosper (right) hold up point guard Maurice Jones during the team’s media day Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Photo by Justin Prince, NBLCNET

New names, familiar faces.

That is the main theme for the Windsor Express heading into the beginning of the 2016-17 NBL Canada regular season.

The Express started the campaign with a completely different roster Thursday night with a 105-93 loss to the Orangeville A’s. All but two of the team’s opening day players – DeAndre Thomas and Erik Parker, who will both start on Windsor’s practice roster – were part of the organization at the end of last season, according to DakStats.

Express head coach Bill Jones told reporters during the team’s media day Wednesday that the roster changes mean he is approaching this season differently.

“It’s an unusual team for us because there’s a lot of new faces,” said Jones. “We addressed our weaknesses from last year. We didn’t feel we were a good perimeter-shooting team (last season), so we went and addressed those needs … we also had weaknesses at our point guard, so we solidified that with one of the best point guards to have played in our league (Darren Duncan) and a back-up who is fast and energetic and then solidified our middle with Nick Evans.”

Windsor Express guard Darren Duncan poses for photographs during the team’s media day on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Photo by Justin Prince, NBLCNET

The team made plenty of additions this offseason, adding rookie players such as former University of Windsor Lancer Alex Campbell, shooting guard Wally Ellenson (brother of 2016 Detroit Pistons first round draft pick Henry Ellenson) and St. John’s, N.L. product Noel Moffatt.

Windsor also added league veterans such as Detroit native Brandan Kearney, former Niagara River Lions starter Clinton Springer-Williams and former London Lightning forward Warren Ward.

Two other former Express players – Duncan, who started the season on the injured reserve list with a lower-body injury, and Nick Evans, who played 10 games with the franchise during the 2013-14 season – were also brought back.

“We have a lot of new people, so that’s always a process,” said Duncan, who holds the franchise’s all-time records for total assists and steals. “When you have a lot of new people, you try and integrate everyone in. That’s always going to be a tough process, but we’re up for the challenge.”

A third Express veteran returning is 2015 MVP Quinnel Brown, who played for the team in 2013-2015.

Windsor’s opportunity to bring back the 33-year-old big man was unexpected, according to Jones.

Brown, who signed with Gigantes in Venezuela last season, was originally planning to return there, but they had not started their season yet.

Jones then called Brown to see if there was any interest in him returning.

Duncan and Thomas made their pitches for Brown to come back to the Rose City soon after. By the team’s cut day, Brown was back in Windsor and played in his first practice. Brown said the whole process took about five days overall.

“I’m just happy to be back in Windsor,” said Brown. “This is like a second home for me with Chicago. I’m always willing to come back no matter what the situation is. I love Windsor.”

Jones said it will take time for the former MVP to readjust. His Venezuela club had also not played a game since October, when they finished the Liga Sudamericana de Básquetbol regular season.

Brown went on to record seven points, five rebounds and four assists in his return to the league off the bench Thursday.

Brown said he did not expect the team to stay the same at all compared to when he last played in the league.

“I have to take a different role or a different way about doing things,” said Brown. “What you guys are used to seeing in Windsor, maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, but the only thing I can promise you is that I’m going to play and leave it out on the court.”

Windsor Express players (from left to right) Quinnel Brown, Wally Ellenson, Clinton Springer-Williams, Brandan Kearney, Warren Ward and Noel Moffatt pose for a photograph while taking part in the team’s media day on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Photo by Justin Prince, NBLCNET

Brown feels “each and every guy is more talented” than in past seasons. He said the main key to Windsor’s success though will be how they fit together throughout the season and if they buy into Jones’s system.

“One guy can’t win for us. One guy isn’t going to have 60 (points),” said Brown. “It’s going to have to be a collective effort from everybody.”

Jones said he is not worried about how the team performs in December. He is more focused on how they will play come playoff time.

“Our division has won four of the five (league) championships, so going in, you know it’s going to be a tough side,” said Jones. “We know going in it’s going to be tough, but we have to play each game as it’s the championship game.”

The Express will be playing their home opener Friday night at the WFCU Centre against the Orangeville A’s. Tip-off time is at 7 p.m. EST.