Maine Red Claws Preview Features Lasme - UMass Athletics

Maine Red Claws Preview Features Lasme

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The Sun Journal of Maine has a season preview of the D-League's Maine Red Claws which feature former UMass star Stephane Lasme, who was the final cut of the Boston Celtics this season. He is hopeful of returning to the NBA team with a strong showing in the developmental league.

"It just gave me more confidence," Lasme said of his training camp experience with Boston. "I know I can play in the NBA. I'm just waiting for the chance to get in. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, just keep working hard, keep working on my game, keep getting better and try to get my team better and win some games."

Red Claws media day

Red Claws going young for second season

PORTLAND -- One of the first things Magnum Rolle did when he learned he'd been drafted by the Maine Red Claws was Google "Maine" and "Red Claws."

So what did the search turn up?

"A lot of seafood stuff," the Red Claws' 6-foot-11 first-round draft choice said. "I hear the seafood here is great."

"I tried to learn what I can about the town and the team," Rolle added. "What I liked about it as I kept doing my research is they carry themselves in a first class manner."

Surely Rolle wasn't the only one of the 15 players on the Red Claws' to go on-line for information about the fledgling NBA Development League franchise before it opened its second training camp Tuesday. With just two players returning from their inaugural season, the Red Claws have virtually an entirely new look this year.

"Something we wanted to get this year were guys that were young and hungry," head coach Austin Ainge said during the team's annual media day on Tuesday. "That was kind of the theme of our acquisitions. We've got some young, athletic guys and we hope to play fast this year."

The Red Claws were a huge hit off the court last year, becoming the first team in NBADL history to sell out all of their home games. On the Portland Expo floor, they were slightly less successful, finishing 27-23, just missing a playoff spot.

Of course, the primary mission of every NBADL franchise is to develop players for the NBA, and the Red Claws were among the league's best at doing that, too, having five of their players promoted to the NBA last season. Maine is affiliated with the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats.

Between those call-ups, injuries, trades and additions from foreign leagues, the Red Claws had about as much roster turnover as any team, something they hope to curb this year.

"We learned a lot of lessons from Year One," Red Claws president and general manager Jon Jennings said. "One of the things that I don't want to do is have as much roster turnover. Now, there's nothing we can do in terms of players be called up (to the NBA). That's what we're here for. We want to see players called up. But I really want to settle on a roster. Let's really work with these guys. Let's develop them. We want to win games. That's what we're also here for."

The Red Claws have gone from a team well-stocked with veterans last year to one of the youngest teams in the league this year, Jennings said. More than half of the training camp roster consists of players taken in this year's draft. Ten of the players are rookies.

The roster also includes three affiliated players -- Tiny Gallon and Stephane Lasme from the Celtics and Jamar Smith from the Bobcats, and one player invited from the NBADL's tryouts, Lamonte Ulmer. Mario West is the only player to have seen playing time with the Red Claws last year. Paul Harris, the Red Claws' first draft pick ever, is also back after missing all of last season with an ankle injury.

"We've got a lot of quick little guards that can really push the balls and make shots. We've got some athletic wings that can finish. And we have some big guys who can score in the post," Ainge said.

Rolle is the most sought-after prospect on the team. Jennings said he has already been contacted by a number of NBA teams interested in the Louisiana Tech product, who was cut during Indiana Pacers training camp. Another call-up candidate is Lasme, an athletic 6-foot-8 forward from UMass, was the Celtics' final training camp casualty.

"It just gave me more confidence," Lasme said of his training camp experience with Boston. "I know I can play in the NBA. I'm just waiting for the chance to get in. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, just keep working hard, keep working on my game, keep getting better and try to get my team better and win some games."

If anyone can tell Lasme what it takes to get another NBA opportunity it's West, who has the distinction of being the first Red Claws player to be called up to the NBA. He played in 11 games for Maine before the Atlanta Hawks signed him to a 10-day contract and eventually for the season.

The 6-foot-5 guard played 34 games for Atlanta and was released after the season. He spent the preseason with the Celtics

"There are some things that you can control and some things you can't," West said. "My success, getting called up and having what success I've had in the NBA, the No. 1 reason I would say is my belief in God. Then hard work. And also, the coaching staff that's here, coach Ainge and his coaching staff, stayed on me, stayed on everybody. Then the GM and the fan support. All those things, those four or five things, you tie them all in together and give it your best shot, you'll get looks (from NBA teams). I think everybody will get looks. And the more the team wins, that makes you look better, too."

Maine will begin its training camp with four consecutive days of double session practices. The preseason schedule includes a team scrimmage at Deering High School on Nov. 13 and a preseason game against Springfield on Nov. 15 at the Augusta Civic Center before the season-opener against the Austin Toros on Nov. 19 at the Expo. There are tickets remaining for both the Augusta exhibition and the season-opener.

Team chairman and co-owner Bill Ryan, Jr. said ticket sales have been "really good" this year. Group sales are up, and the team now has a known commodity to sell to everyone. There are fewer unknowns for the team, too.

"We had such a good reception last year. We're just really thankful for all of the support the fans have given us," he said. "This year, we have more of a sense of how it's going to go. We were going into a bit of an unknown last season. Coming in, we didn't know how it was all going to look with 3,000 people in the building. Now we know, and everyone is very well-adjusted to it."

Ainge said the basketball operations side of the franchise got it's feet wet, too.

"I feel much more comfortable with the team," he said. "All of us, I think, top to bottom, feel a little more confident in what we're doing."

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