Monday, April 23, 2018
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Denney and Perry discuss USADB free agency and residency rules

A firestorm was set off when the Indy Hawks were disqualified just before tip-off at the CAAD (Central Athletics Association of the Deaf) regional basketball tournament for having too many free agents. This breathed life in yet another controversy, which apparently never fails to appear when regional, and national basketball tournaments come around. Some are petty and others seem never-ending because many people have strong and differing opinions on how to move forward in Deaf basketball world. This particular controversy on the Indy Hawks has brought back the age-old question on whether USADB’s Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and Residency Rule has helped or hindered the competition.

USADB (USA Deaf basketball) instituted the Player Residency Rules and RFA that has changed the landscape for Deaf basketball. There was a period prior to the establishment of these two rules that players could play for anyone and anywhere. This is not the case these days as players now must play within the regions they live in which is the residency rule. The RFA rule allows all teams to have up to two players outside of their region on their team thus the controversy being addressed here.

2016 John Perry and Carl DenneyCarl Wayne Denney and John Perry offer their insights on this hot button topic. Both are very actively involved in Deaf basketball and hold dear the issues surrounding Deaf basketball. Carl has coached Deaf Club basketball for 15 years winning four championships and four runner-ups, most notably with the Indy Hawks. The sometimes-controversial coach is currently retired with an eye on a possible return in the near future. This season's current Indy Hawks (28-3) was led by Denney to a 21-3 mark before he stepped down due to job relocation. Former Gallaudet cager John Perry is the coach of the current #1 seeded DMV Diplomats located in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia metro area. John has earned three national championships along with two runner-ups plus seven EAAD (Eastern Athletic Association of the Deaf) championships. He also was a long-time Gallaudet basketball team assistant coach in a collegiate career that spanned for almost fifteen years. (John Perry on left and Carl Wayne Denney on right - Photo credit Peter Badavas).

What are your views of the USADB's Restricted Free Agent and Players Residency Rule?

2016 Carl Denney HeadshotCarl: I am against it simply because it is outdated and unnecessary. It does not bring parity (equality) to teams across the nation, and severely limits players to competing to a specific region, of which their skills may not necessarily be shown on a national stage. Opening up the USADB by getting rid of the residency rule would enable ballplayers everywhere to be able to play for whoever they want to, for example, a man or woman who works in North Dakota could have the option of playing with their friends in Texas or a club in Florida reaching out to that forward that fits their system in Maine. How member clubs run their teams are their business, they succeed or fail on their own terms, as long as they know the risks of having a team made up of players that haven’t played together much as opposed to a team that’s played together all year.

The Restricted Free Agent rule is now that all teams in the USADB can have two per team. That’s an improvement over the previous rule where only one could play anywhere but still, it has become the focal point of Deaf basketball. Where does this player live? Doesn’t that team have three or four free agents? It makes Deaf basketball as a whole a game of “Where’s your driver’s license?” rather than “That team is amazing!”

We are robbing the general public, the fans and our community of the ability to see the best and skilled players by limiting player movement and clubs from maintaining their full potential as a basketball club with all its trappings such as coach, team manager and business manager. There are hardcore club teams that play 20-30 games a year with highly skilled players who want to compete against the best and there are teams of guys who play Xbox all week and get together once a month to play club ball. The contrast is obvious and different and not worth a paying fan’s time to watch. The best teams will win not based on talent, but based on how serious their players are. This is where Open competition is beneficial to the USADB. This is an area the USADB needs to consider making changes.

2016 John Perry HeadshotJohn: I am for it because it’s not about the free agent or the residency rule or even the driver’s license issue. It’s the game every Deaf basketball player love and want to play. Residency rules help keep the players in their regions and create more teams. Really, it depends on how strong the Deaf basketball community is and where they are located. Each region tends to have a varying number of teams participating in a regional tournament. It’s like a stock market every year but that wasn’t affected by the free agent rule or the residency rule. I’ll elaborate this on the next question. There are some states that never had a Deaf club team. NSAD (National Softball Association for the Deaf) decided to make the state of West Virginia a free state so a few deaf softball players can play for any team because that state hasn’t had a Deaf softball team in years. Can USADB do that? I say why not.

USADB’s RFA rule is working out just fine. Dwight Brewington is from Massachusetts and plays for ATX Warriors of Austin, Texas. DMV Diplomats has one free agent, Showstoppers has one as well. I am not sure about the others. I think Indy Hawks would be the only team at USADB to have two free agents. Correct me if I’m wrong. Because the Indy Hawks was disqualified recently at their regional tournament, CAAD did not conduct the “due process” correctly in regards to driver’s licenses making Indy Hawks guilty of having five free agents. It may be a good thing this happened because USADB is now considering removing the driver’s license and instead use other documents to prove residency.

You know, in the past, the AAAD (American Athletic Association of the Deaf) history from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, I learned a lot from an old buddy of mine who I have stayed in touch since the first day I stepped on Gallaudet campus as a freshman. AAAD did have similar issues as we have today. It’s no big surprise here. However, USADB gave a chance to small teams like the regional runner-ups to play in a once a year big-time tournament. AAAD did not. AAAD ran an only 8-team (seven regional champions and tournament host) tournament and USADB has run a 16-team tournament that includes the regional runner-ups. It has been stated that the women tournament always have a small number of teams every year at AAAD/USADB.

I understand and it’s true that some Deaf teams are hardcore year-round playing 20-30 games, and others not so. Take NoVa Diplomats, for example, I created this team in 2008 and we only played a couple of invitational tournaments, won the EAAD, and took the #3 seed at USADB in Orlando. We fought through to the finals and lost to the Indy Hawks in overtime. I’m making a point here that a team didn’t need to play 20-30 games a year just to prove they’re hardcore and to get to the finals. A lot of players have their priorities as well, which is why they don’t play 20-30 games a year.

I’ll be quite frank with you, Carl. You have come up with your ideas of cutting off the free agent rule and the residency rule at the right time because of the NDBO (National Deaf basketball Organization) fiasco with USADB. NDBO consists of teams from the Southeast region and some from other regions as well. Now Carl, let’s just say we cut off the residency rule and the RFA, too. What happens now? This idea of Carl’s is just really going to cut off the small teams like the regional runner-ups and the third place teams. It simply shows that we will have the best of the best at USADB and not have the runner-ups or third place teams there. The number of teams for the men’s tournament will decline. With this new rule you’re going for, Carl, I don’t think you will see the eight regional champions at the USADB tournaments. In fact, it will hurt the regionals as well. Oh, and guess what? Most of the teams will just head over to NDBO because they don’t want to face the best of the best and eventually USADB folds.

Has the Residency Rule helped teams since they took effect in 1994?

2016 Carl Denney HeadshotCarl: In my opinion, no. Only the great Lincoln and Columbia (Missouri) teams of the mid-90’s (Mike Stultz, Keith Westhoelter, Kenny Walker, et al) were able to break through the USADB’s consistent showing of teams from large metropolitan areas with larger numbers of Deaf population. Before the residency rule, you had the Carolinas, made up of locals competing along with Chicago Club which had a strong team made up of Chicagoland players and the Hollywood Stars, a team with a roster made up of players from all over the nation. Hollywood and Chicago dominated the AAAD until Carolinas won it all in 1988 in a stunning upset over Hollywood. That was the last time a “homegrown” team won the championship. Once the rule was decided in 1993 and set for the 1993-1994 season, you had teams all over with players limited to the region they played in, then you had questions of cheating, licensure, and residency becomes part of the landscape, which is tiring and diluting the Deaf basketball brand.

2016 John Perry HeadshotJohn: Yes it did. The number of regional teams has been great and consistent. Like I mentioned in my response to the first question, the number of women teams from each region is usually small with the largest at 30 and the smallest at 13. That’s roughly 21 teams for each year. Men had their largest number of teams at 73 twice (2004 and 2016) and the smallest at 43. There are roughly 60 men teams each year from all regions including the Southeast. AAAD once had an eligibility rule that was based on 50 miles from residence plus 50 miles of work location. Wow, that rule is way too strict for us today. Somehow, coaches found a way around this. Finally, AAAD ended that rule and Hollywood (Los Angeles) started gathering players from around the nation. Keep in mind; AAAD in 1988 only had a nine-team tournament. I’m writing for every Deaf ballplayer out there. The total number of teams you see shows the number of players playing, 73 regional men’s teams times 10 players each is roughly 730 players in the nation. It’s not about the competition of the tournament; it’s the passion they have to play the game they love.

Has the RFA rule helped teams since it became a reality in 2010?

2016 Carl Denney HeadshotCarl: Yes and no. I do know that my team, the Indy Hawks benefited from having Robert Haney, a native Hoosier play with the team when he was teaching in New Mexico then having Sekoe White lead us to the 2014 championship while he was working in Mississippi. However, the advent of the additional free agent has made every team questioning each other. The Hawks have found themselves in an unfortunate situation where the CAAD (of which the Hawks recently were to return to) accused the Hawks of having five free agents, when in reality they had two official free agents, and the other two had moved to Indianapolis but never got around to changing their driver's license. One had returned home three years ago and just plain kept his New Mexico license because he could. This has set a controversy that will be decided by the USADB sometime soon and reignited bitter feelings amongst the teams in the Central region and the Hawks, more over the Hawks continued dominance. The licensure thing has just been something the CAAD has grabbed on and made a very big deal about, even though they knew those players were Hawks since June 2015.

The rules make teams either purposefully cheat, or complicates things, for examples, snowbirds. What do you do about them when they want to live in Florida for the winter? It's not illegal for them to do so in America, especially if they have the finances. Critics use this as fodder to say “You cheat!” when in reality, they can do it because they don’t have to stay around for club ball teams because it's not a job, especially in the dead of winter.

I know a couple teams the past six years who benefited from the rule. Its made their team competitive or it's given kids who want to play with their high school buddies on a club team the chance to play together again, but in an era where more and more Deaf individuals are starting to showcase their skills such as modeling, business, and the arts. Managers running a team to its fullest potential should not be punished for imitating the professional model.

2016 John Perry HeadshotJohn: Yes it did. Darnell Woods proposed this rule and it did help teams to keep or get one player from outside of their region. Supposedly a player had a new job, had to move out west, played for a Deaf club from New York for several years, and wanted to stay with them. This rule helps the team and the player who moved. I would call it the “home team” free agent rule, which means a player who has played for this club for so long and moved to another region but still wants to stay with the same club. In the AAAD, Philadelphia, in the 1970s, after AAAD removed the residence and eligibility rule, got the best player from Seattle. With USADB, I would call this the “best player” free agent rule aka Dwight Brewington.

Then USADB expanded to two free agents, which I think, is enough. This rule was initiated in 2010 and no team until the Indy Hawks this year has been suspended or disqualified. The Indy Hawks’ disqualification was wrong and everyone knows that. You cannot blame this rule just because the Indy Hawks were disqualified for having five free agents. USADB allowed the Indy Hawks to bypass the regionals and participate because they received proven documentation of the affected players’ residences. CAAD simply may have conducted their due process incorrectly. A good friend of mine once said: “AAAD was not perfect but delegates tried their best”. And like the famous quote, “No one is perfect.”

What do you propose with those two rulings?

2016 Carl Denney HeadshotCarl: Get rid of them completely. Focus the USADB on the member teams, not the teams’ players. The name across the jersey is important, not where a player lives. Teams attract fans, even more so with specific players on specific teams.

I’ll give you an example; Dwight Brewington was a Division One ballplayer with the Big East’s Providence College. He’s a 6’5 shooting guard living in Boston. The New England club scene isn’t what it used to be back in the 1970’s or 1980’s or even the 1990’s. It's fallen apart. He played in 2013-2014 and dominated the region but didn’t go to the nationals. This year, he joined the ATX Warriors, a team on the rise, and everyone is curious to see him at the upcoming USADB in St. Louis, thanks to the RFA rule. If there were no RFA, would anyone have ever seen him play at the national level? I think not.

With open competition, teams now can have anyone they want. They can have a Brewington of their own to fit in with the Dorn (a 6’9 post player for the Indy Hawks) they already have. The team that was up and coming with youngsters but fell short can keep trying even though the point guard they had, got a job in Oregon. How they go from there is their decision as a team. The teams are the point, the team has their name on the jersey, how or who is on their roster is an added bonus.

2016 John Perry HeadshotJohn: Nothing. Not right now until USADB works with NDBO and finds a way to merge these two organizations together and go from there. That will greatly increase the number of teams at a national tournament and attract fans. I think having two free agents is good enough to build a decent to a strong team. Lexington Empire City from EAAD has greatly improved and finished third. They were in a tight game with the defending 2015 USADB champion Showstoppers in the EAAD’s semifinals. Guess what? Lexington doesn’t have a free agent and all these players live in the same region.

It shows the residency rule is working and it helps create more teams. Shall I say passion? The love of the game? Regional tournaments are so much valued by small teams like Lexington. Taking away the residency rule and the RFA will make small teams like Lexington disappear. I’ll be honest with you all here; there will always be pros and cons when running a tournament. You can’t satisfy everyone but once a rule is implemented, everyone has to follow it. USADB just expanded to allow two free agents not too long ago. What more do you want? Someday, I might come to the point where I would say it’s time to end the residency rule but not today. We’re doing fine, trust me.

Deaf Sports Federation decries lack of funds

By Kabelo Boranabi

Speaking to Mmegi Sport on the sidelines of the launch of the Deaf Basketball clinic hosted by Deaf International Basketball Federation (DIBF) in Gaborone yesterday, Moyo said his office encountered a lot of challenges daily but lack of money had been a core to problems.

Moyo said: “We deal with a lot challenges, but the main issue has been funds.

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Source: Mmegi Online

Willie Ross School for the Deaf wins basketball championship

By Sean Teehan

LONGMEADOW — Middle school students at the Willie Ross School for the Deaf won their first ever basketball championship last month, beating out a school for deaf students in eastern Massachusetts.

The eight-member team began practice for this season in December, said Erica Kaftan, Assistant Director of Educational Services at Willie Ross.

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Source: MassLive

LaVine donates 10K of dunk-contest winnings to deaf school

Many basketball fans know Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine for his high-flying dunks, most famously at the past two NBA dunk contests.

But to a school of deaf and hard of hearing students in St. Paul, the 21-year-old is something entirely different: A volunteer and now a benefactor.

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Source: FOX Sports

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By Lance Allred

As a basketball player who valued education, I was often the butt of jokes in the locker room. Not that I minded; a college education gave my father the enlightenment to lead our family out of polygamy when I was 12 years old. Because of this, education has always been an important part of our lives. Both of my parents became school teachers and my older siblings received academic scholarships, with me being the lone jock in the family. Yet the pride of education would extend to me as well, the youngest, because the last thing I ever wanted to be was a clichéd athlete who didn’t care about school.

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Source: Yahoo Sports

NBA's First Deaf Player Pivots To Social Entrepreneurship

By Devin Thorpe

Lance Allred played professional basketball for a decade all around the world, including a stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008. Born legally deaf into a fundamentalist polygamous family, his life experience has been anything but typical. Now, with his playing days behind him, Allred is turning to social entrepreneurship.

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Source: Forbes


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