Former NCAA Stars Leading the Way for the London Lightning in 2015-16

Curtis Washington (left, Georgia State) and Tyshawn Patterson (right, Stetson) are two of several former NCAA stars who are leading the way for the London Lightning in 2015-16. (Source: Stu Switzer)
Curtis Washington (left, Georgia State) and Tyshawn Patterson (right, Stetson) are two of several former NCAA stars who are leading the way for the London Lightning in 2015-16. (Source: Stu Switzer)

The National Basketball League of Canada is in its fifth year of existence, and what a ride it has been so far for the league.

In the first four seasons, only two teams have won the league championship. The London Lightning won back-to-back titles when the league first started up, and the Windsor Express are the two-time defending champions.

As the league gains more traction in the basketball world, more and more players are becoming aware of the high-calibre professional basketball that takes place north of the border. Former NCAA stars have been coming to play in Canada since the league’s inception, but the 2015-16 season seems to have more than ever before.

The increase in overall talent is great news for the league as a whole, and the London Lightning are reaping the benefits of the influx of collegiate talent.

Sitting at 4-2 on the year, heading into their showdown with the Niagara River Lions on Thursday night, the Lightning once again look like a top contender for the NBL Canada title.

Get to know some of the former NCAA stars who are calling London, Ontario their home this season!

Stephen Maxwell – Cal State Northridge Matadors

College Stats: 122 GP, 14.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 53.0% FG
Lightning Stats: 6 GP, 17.5 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 59.4% FG

Height: 6’7”; Weight: 220 pounds; Hometown: Woodland Hills, CA

During his collegiate days, Maxwell was one of the premier forwards in the Big West Conference, having some impressive battles against the likes of Alan Williams and the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the process. Maxwell is an impact player on both ends of the floor, using his explosiveness and intensity to pull down rebounds on both ends of the floor. He is effective around the rim, and has the aforementioned explosiveness that leads to some highlight plays at or above the rim.

Chad Posthumus – Morehead State Eagles

College Stats: 67 GP, 8.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 50.1% FG
Lightning Stats: 6 GP, 11.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 46.2% FG

Height: 6’11”; Weight: 270 pounds; Hometown: Winnipeg, MB

During his two years at Morehead State, Chad Posthumus developed as an imposing force in the paint. While his style of play isn’t flashy, he is a steady, reliable interior player who will give you his all on a nightly basis. Posthumus has a soft touch around the rim, and will battle for rebounds. At 6’11” and 270 pounds, he uses his size to his advantage inside, and makes it extremely tough for opponents to move him away from the basket.

Tyshawn Patterson – Stetson Hatters / North Greenville

College Stats: 109 GP, 10.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 27.8% 3PT
Lightning Stats: 6 GP, 21.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 45.1% 3PT

Height: 6’1”; Weight: 180 pounds; Hometown: Orlando, FL

In his only season at North Greenville, Patterson averaged an impressive 23.8 points per contest. Over his collegiate career, he wasn’t a strong three-point shooter. In his first season with the Lightning, he has emerged as a go-to option behind the arc, shooting 45.1% from long distance over the first 6 games. He’s the team’s leading scorer, and when he’s on the floor, the offense often goes through him on the back end. He has the speed and aggressiveness to drive the lane and finish in the paint, and has improved his jump shot to be able to knock down shots from all over the floor. Patterson has quickly emerged as a fan-favourite in London with his play, and he’s become a reliable leader on both ends of the floor for Coach Julius in the process.

Curtis Washington – Georgia State Panthers

College Stats: 71 GP, 6.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 61.4% FG
Lightning Stats: 6 GP, 5.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 55.2% FG

Height: 6’11”; Weight: 230 pounds; Hometown: Elizabethtown, KY

Curtis Washington was a part of the Georgia State Panthers team who took down the Baylor Bears in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, which was one of the best tournament games in recent memory. In limited action with the Lightning this season, predominately coming off the bench, Washington has been a nice addition to the front-court rotation for the Lightning. He has shown some nice footwork around the basket, and has showcased a nice spin move off a defender for a lay-up off glass. With more playing time comes improved statistics, but fans have to like what they have seen from Washington so far. A rotation of Posthumus and Washington at the 5-spot is never a bad thing to have.

Nick Okorie – Texas Tech Red Raiders

College Stats: 63 GP, 11.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 41.1% FG
Lightning Stats: 1 GP, 15.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, 50.0% FG

Height: 6’1”; Weight: 195 pounds; Hometown: Houston, TX

While Okorie has only played one game for the Lightning this season due to injury, his impact on the team was felt right away. Against the Orangeville A’s, Okorie scored 15 points and shot 50% from the floor in London’s come-from-behind 111-106 road win. Despite going 0-of-3 from three-point range in the game, Okorie is a strong shooter from all over the floor. His return adds even more depth to an already strong back court for the Lightning. Although, having more depth on the bench is never a bad thing in any league.

Marcus Capers – Washington State Cougars

College Stats: 135 GP, 5.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 51.9% FG
Lightning Stats: 6 GP, 3.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, 47.6% FG

Height: 6’5”; Weight: 190 pounds; Hometown: Winter Haven, FL

Marcus Capers has been a fan-favourite for the London Lightning this season thanks to some strong plays on both ends of the floor. Whether he is throwing down an alley-oop slam on an assist from Jeremy Wise, or blocking an opponent’s shot on defense, Capers brings in on both ends of the floor each night. He won’t flood the box score with out-of-this-world numbers, but he is a consistent presence on both ends of the floor. Capers is a near-50% shooter on offense, which is all you can ask of a player. He is an ideal role player who can factor into the starting lineup at times and play at either the 2- or 3-spot in the lineup.

Jeremy Wise – Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

College Stats: 96 GP, 17.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.0 apg, 42.2% FG
Lightning Stats: 5 GP, 7.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.4 apg, 40.7% FG

Height: 6’2”; Weight: 185 pounds; Hometown: Jackson, MS

Jeremy Wise put together a stellar career at Southern Mississippi, opting to leave after three spectacular seasons with the Golden Eagles. Before being placed on the Injured Reserve before the Lightning’s game against Orangeville (Okorie’s return), he was having a strong season for the Lightning. He has great court vision, and is an excellent distributor of the ball. In the early parts of the year, Wise and Capers have connected on a few alley-oop slams that have electrified the Lightning fans inside the Budweiser Gardens. His presence in the lineup will surely be missed, as he is an incredible talent.

Mustafaa Jones – Fairleigh Dickinson Knights

College Stats: 91 GP, 9.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 37.0% FG
Lightning Stats: 5 GP, 3.6 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 50.0% FG (all 3-pointers)

Height: 6’2”; Weight: 180 pounds; Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Back in college, Mustafaa Jones was a star guard in the Northeast Conference. In three years with the Knights, he put up 9.5 points per contest, and averaged over 14 ppg in his senior season. In the loaded back court for the Lightning, he has seen limited playing time in 5 games this season. He is 6-of-12 from the field on the year, all of which are from three-point range. He has the shooting ability to make a difference when he’s on the floor, but Lightning fans have to be patient. When Jones gets hot from the field, he can take over the game.

Garrett Williamson – Saint Joseph’s Hawks

College Stats: 129 GP, 7.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 44.8% FG
Lightning Stats: 4 GP, 13.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 6.0 apg, 56.3% FG

Height: 6’5”; Weight: 215 pounds; Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Talented wing Garrett Williamson is another popular player in and around London. He missed two games early in the season with a leg injury, and his presence on the hardwood was missed. He is another top scorer for the Lightning, averaging 13.3 points and 6.0 assists per game. He can impact the game in so many ways on offense, and the Lightning are a well-oiled machine with him on the floor.

London Lightning fans have to be pleased with the roster that Coach Julius and his staff have assembled for this season. Add in the likes of Warren WardJordan WeidnerKevin LoiselleTaylor Black, and Akeem Wright, and the Lightning have the look of a group who can challenge for the league title come May!

– T.B.