Santa Barbara Breakers Crash into Second Season and a New League

Round Two for Minor-League Hoopsters

This year's S.B. Breakers team.
Paul Wellman

In the here-today, gone-tomorrow world of minor-league basketball, the Santa Barbara Breakers have resisted the latter part. But in order to bring his team back for its second season, Breakers president and head coach Curt Pickering had to start a new league.

It is the West Coast Pro Basketball League (WCPBL), and the Breakers broke out of the starting gate with a pair of victories last weekend at the SBCC Sports Pavilion. They won the clash of the waves-against the Newport Beach Surf-by a score of 104-92, and they out-shot the Hollywood Shooting Stars, 106-87.

All seven of the Breakers’ fellow league members are within easy driving distance, which would not have been the case if they remained in the International Basketball League. The four IBL franchises that were geographically closest to Santa Barbara closed up shop after last season. Although the league has added a team in Thousand Oaks, for most of their road games, the Breakers would have had to travel out of state.

“I never intended to be one-and-done,” said Pickering, whose Breakers reached the Final Four of the 22-team IBL last year with a 17-6 record. “Dropping out of the league was a business decision. I didn’t consider folding for two reasons: the fans and the media.” The Breakers played their final home game last year before a sold-out crowd of 1,994. They capitalized on their only-show-in-town status by gaining considerable publicity in Santa Barbara’s media outlets.

With his credibility at stake, Pickering got together with fellow basketball maven Jim Parks last summer. Both men had years of experience scouting players and coaching teams both in the U.S. and abroad. “Jim and I met at his home in Grover Beach and started the WCPBL from nothing,” Pickering said. They decided to retain the IBL’s late-spring scheduling-a timeframe that does not conflict with prep and college basketball, and it leads into the start of NBA training camps and overseas professional leagues.

The Breakers continue to be kid-friendly. As soon as their opening game was concluded last Friday night, all the players were supplied with Sharpies, and they fulfilled every request for an autograph.

The most popular players included Justin Johnson, a sharpshooting guard from Ole Miss; 7ʹ1Ê° Rashid Byrd, a Brooklyn native who learned his basketball skills on the streets of New York; Josh Merrill, a former UCSB star who is the sports pastor at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch; and homeboy Shantay Legans (Dos Pueblos High, Cal, and Fresno State). Byrd and Merrill recently appeared on the big screen in Will Ferrell’s comedy Semi-Pro.

“I love passing, and I’ve got some players to pass to,” said Legans, who works as a teacher’s aide at Santa Barbara High and promotes hoops at the Goleta Boys & Girls Club. Legans made an array of dazzling assists in the opener, not including a pass that nailed a photographer when his teammate failed to read a back-door play.

With a 23-second shot clock and limited time-outs, the action is fast-paced. But the Breakers are somewhat less talented than last year, when they had former UCLA star Toby Bailey, who’s now playing in Germany; Fred Vinson, hired by the L.A. Clippers as a shooting coach; and Lamond Murray, who recently signed with the IBL.

Next up for the Breakers is a home game this Saturday night, April 19, against the Carlsbad Beach Dawgs. The remainder of their schedule at SBCC (all games begin at 7:05pm): Pasadena Slam on April 26; Ventura Jets on May 3; Hollywood on May 9; Pasadena on May 10; High Desert Rattlers on May 30; Newport Beach on May 31; High Desert on June 7; and Ventura on June 15.

The WCPBL playoffs will transpire in two days, June 20-21, in contrast to the NBA’s 2½-month marathon.

BASEBALL GAME OF THE WEEK: UCSB, tied for second in the Big West with Cal State Fullerton, will face the Pac 10’s USC in an inter-conference baseball series this weekend. Two games, at 2 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Sunday, will take place at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The teams will play in L.A. on Saturday. The Gauchos entered the week with a 23-11 record, including 16-3 on their home diamond. The Trojans (18-16) took two out of three games over No. 5-ranked Cal last weekend.

Top Sporting Events: April 17-27

Thursday, April 17

College baseball Ventura at SBCC, Pershing Park, 2:30 p.m.

High school boys tennis San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 2:30 p.m.

High school baseball Santa Barbara at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.

High school softball Carpinteria at Bishop Diego, 3:30 p.m.

High school track & field Ventura at Dos Pueblos, 2:45 p.m.; Fillmore at Carpinteria, 3 p.m.

High school boys volleyball Buchanan at Santa Barbara, 6:30 p.m.; Buena at Dos Pueblos, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, April 18

College baseball USC at UCSB, 2 p.m.

College men’s tennis Western State Conference Championships at SBCC, Pershing Park and Municipal Courts, 11 a.m.

High school swimming Dos Pueblos at Santa Barbara, 2:30 p.m.

High school baseball Buena at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.; San Marcos at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.; Carpinteria at Bishop Diego, 3:30 p.m.

High school softball Dos Pueblos at San Marcos, 3:30 p.m.

High school boys volleyball Santa Barbara Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions at SB High, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m., and Dos Pueblos, 6-8:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 19

Running Santa Barbara Running 10-Miler & 5K, Leadbetter Beach, 8 a.m.

High school track & field County Championships at Carpinteria, 10 a.m.

College baseball San Diego Christian at Westmont (2), 12 p.m.; Hancock at SBCC, Pershing Park, 1 p.m.

College softball Long Beach State at UCSB (2), 12 p.m.

College men’s tennis Western State Conference Championships at SBCC, Pershing Park, 10 a.m.

High school boys volleyball Santa Barbara Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions at SB High, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (championship match at 6:15 p.m.) and Dos Pueblos, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Basketball Carlsbad Beach Dawgs at Santa Barbara Breakers, SBCC Sports Pavilion, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday, April 20

College softball Long Beach State at UCSB, 12 p.m.

College baseball USC at UCSB, 1 p.m.

Every Monday

Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Harry’s Plaza Cafe, noon.

Monday, April 21

High school boys volleyball Ventura at Santa Barbara, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 22

High school boys tennis Santa Barbara at Dos Pueblos, 2:30 p.m.

High school baseball San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.

High school softball Santa Barbara at San Marcos, 3:30 p.m.; Fillmore at Carpinteria, 3:30 p.m.

High school boys volleyball Dos Pueblos at San Marcos, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 23

High school swimming Thousand Oaks at Santa Barbara, 2:30 p.m.

High school boys tennis Irvine University at Santa Barbara, 2:30 .m.

High school track & field St. Bonaventure and La Reina at Carpinteria, 3 p.m.

High school baseball Santa Clara at Carpinteria, 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 24

College baseball Cuesta at SBCC, Pershing Park, 2 p.m.

High school track & field Santa Barbara at San Marcos, 2:45 p.m.

High school softball Villanova Prep at Carpinteria, 3:30 p.m.

High school boys volleyball San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 6:30 p.m.

College, high school, open tennis 108th Ojai Valley Tournament, Libbey Park (and other sites), all day.

Friday, April 25

High school baseball Santa Barbara at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.; Lompoc at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.; Villanova Prep at Bishop Diego, 3:30 p.m.

High school softball San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 3:30 p.m.

High school boys volleyball Oaks Christian at Dos Pueblos, 6 p.m.

College, high school, open tennis 108th Ojai Valley Tournament, Libbey Park (and other sites), all day.

Saturday, April 26

Running/walking Barbara Ireland Walk for the Cure, 10 miles, Chase Palm Park, 8 a.m.; UCSB Gaucho Gallop at UCen: Dioji Dog Dash, 8:15 a.m.; 10K run and 5K fun run/walk, 9 a.m.

High school track & field Dos Pueblos Invitational, 10 a.m.

College baseball Vanguard at Westmont (2), 12 p.m.

High school boys volleyball Loyola at Santa Barbara, 2 p.m.

College, high school, open tennis 108th Ojai Valley Tournament, Libbey Park, all day.

Sunday, April 27

College, high school, open tennis 108th Ojai Valley Tournament, Libbey Park, all day.

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