SlamBall returns Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 with more devasting dunks, hellacious hits and stupendous stops on tap. The big storyline in Week 2? Can anybody stop the Mob? Let’s dive into the storylines …
THURSDAY, JULY 27
GAME 1: LAVA (0-2) vs GRYPHONS (0-2)
OH, BABY! One of these 0-2 teams is getting off the schneid. Both have been competitive – the Lava lost each of the two games by four points while the Gryphons have lost by five and 11 points. These teams are a study in contrasts. The Lava are averaging the second-most points per game in the league (59.5) but are allowing the third-most PPG (63.5). On the other hand, the Gryphons have mustered a league-low 33.5 PPG while surrendering just 41.5 PPG to rank third.
DUNK BANK: When these teams go for a dunk, chances are it will go through the hoop. The Gryphons (72.7%) and Lava (72.5%) are the only two teams in the league that have made more than 70% of their dunk attempts.
THE BRYCE IS RIGHT: Bryce Moragne (Tampa, Fla.), the first overall pick in the SlamBall Draft, has lived up to expectations for the Lava. He leads SlamBall with an output of 24.5 points per game and is tied for third in the league with 14 dunks. His 70.8 shooting percentage (17-of-24) is the best in the league among all players with at least 20 attempts.
FESSIN’ UP: Former reality TV star Faysal “Fessy” Shafaat (Orlando, Fla.) has been keeping it real on the SlamBall court. He has made eight stops in each of the Lava’s two outings. He also leads the squad with 11 loose ball recoveries (LBR).
JUSTIN TIME: Former San Jose State wide receiver Justin Holmes (Roseville, Calif.) has been a force for the Gryphons, leading the team with 26 points. He’s been an efficient 9-of-13 on rim attacks this season.
RIFFIN’ GRYPHON: The Gryphon’s Connor Hollenbeck (Ontario, N.Y.) was expected to be one of the league’s premier stoppers and he hasn’t disappointed, leading the team with 16 stops. He has also contributed nine LBRs, second on the team to Jordan Grant’s 10.
GAME 2: OZONE (1-2) vs MOB (4-0)
MOB RULE: The Ozone will attempt to do what no team has so far this season: Beat the Mob. And they’ll have to do it with their head coach, Trevor Anderson, who was suspended for one session and fined for his role in his team’s altercation with the Wrath in Saturday’s Main Event. The Mob, who enter Week 2 atop SlamBall’s Power Rankings, have rarely been tested in four outings this season, winning by an average of 29 PPG. Showing just how dominant they’ve been, the Mob have averaged the most points in the league (64.3 per game) while allowing the fewest (35.5 per game).
The Mob have made 57.1% of their shot attempts (80-140). They are the only team making more than 50% of their shots. The Mob have turned the ball over just 9.5 times per game, the second-lowest rate in SlamBall (Rumble, 8.0).
Not surprisingly, the Mob were well represented on the Week 1 All-SlamBall team, placing stopper Gage Smith (Elizabeth, Colo.), gunner Darius Clark (Blue Springs, Mo.), and handler Cameron Horton (Jacksonville, Ala.) on the unit. Smith was also named Defensive Player of the Week and Brendan Kirsch was named Coach of the Week. A look at the week that was for the Mob’s All-SlamBall trio:
- All Smith did in the season’s first week was lead the league in stops (40), loose ball recoveries (37) and steals (10). His 14 stops against the Slashers on Sunday were the most by any player this season. The former Concordia basketball star notched double-digit stops in three of the Mob’s four games and made eight or more LBRs in every contest. His 23 points were the most by any stopper in Week 1.
- In his four games, Clark electrified SlamBall fans with his otherworldly leaping ability. The Guinness World record holder for highest vertical leap with a running start (50 inches) ranks first in dunks (27), second in points (83) and tied for first in hits (six). Clark scored at least 20 points in three of his team’s four games and threw down five or more dunks in every outing.
- Horton proved to be the ideal facilitator for the 4-0 Mob, leading SlamBall with 14 assists to go along with 36 points, the seventh-most in the league. The former Life University hoops star also connected on his team’s only made four-point attempt.
THIN AIR: The Ozone have been a hard team to figure out this season. They’ve been blown out twice (by 26 points by the Buzzsaw and 27 points by the Wrath) but beat the talented Lava by four points. To keep pace with the Mob, the Ozone will need to significantly increase their scoring output. This season the Ozone are generating just 43.7 PPG, second-fewest in the league (Gryphons, 33.5). Keith McGee (Rochester, N.Y.) has led the Ozone in scoring in all three of their contests, averaging 14 PPG. Bryan Bell-Anderson (Sarasota, Fla.), the Ozone’s first-round pick, missed most of training camp with an injury and is starting to round into shape. He was held scoreless in 20 minutes over the first two games but dropped in six points in 13 minutes in the Ozone’s most recent game.
GAME 3: Main Event (Game 1 Winner vs Game 2 Winner)
FRIDAY, JULY 28
GAME 1: WRATH (3-1) vs BUZZSAW (3-1)
FEELING THEIR WRATH: The Wrath and Buzzsaw will meet for the second time this season. In the second Main Event of Opening Night, the Wrath prevailed, 44-32. The Buzzsaw sprinted to an 8-0 lead, but that would not last for long. The Wrath tied things at 18 apiece before the Buzzsaw went on another run, scoring the next 14 points en route to a 12-point triumph. Buzzsaw stopper Tyquan Scott (Long Beach, N.Y.) was a brick wall, posting 10 stops. The Wrath’s Ty McGee (Littleton, Colo.) led all scorers with 18 points.
MAIN STREET: One of these two teams will make their third straight Main Event. Both squads are 1-1 in Main Events, including the Wrath’s previous win over the Buzzsaw.
HEALTH WATCH: To beat the Buzzsaw again, the Wrath will have to overcome a rash of injuries. Gunner Ty McGee (concussion protocol), Christian Gray (knee) and handler Steven Julian (ankle) will all be inactive this weekend. The Wrath will get some reinforcements. Gunner/stopper Jordan Jones (ankle) returns from the injury list. He has yet to play the season. Gunner Ermias Kassa, who suited up for the Buzzsaw last week, has been transferred to the Wrath. Friday night the Wrath will also be without head coach James Willis, who was suspended one session and fined for his role in his team’s altercation with the Ozone last Saturday.
McGee (91 points), Julian (30) and Gray (12) have accounted for 133 of the squad’s 203 points (65.5%). Who will step up for the Wrath in their absence? Darion Slade (Winston-Salem, N.C.) put in a team-most 16 points against the Ozone last Saturday’s Main Event, when McGee was injured. The only other active Wrath player with more than three points this season is Nick Parks (Lithonia, Ga.), who has 13.
A little more about Jordan Jones (Clovis, N.M.). … Jones’ shooting skills have taken him from Las Vegas, New Mexico to the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nevada. Jones was a three-sport star (basketball, football and track) at Sandia High School in Albuquerque. He began his college basketball career at Otero College in La Junta, Colo., before landing at New Mexico Highland University in Las Vegas, N.M. In two campaigns at New Mexico Highlands, Jones averaged 11.1 PPG to go along with his 3.6 RPG. Jones also shot a lights-out 40% from beyond the arc, pleading his team those two seasons with 113 made three-pointers. After graduating from NMHU, Jones went on to play professionally in Mexico for the Petroleros and in Costa Rica for Grecia.
RAY OF LIGHT: The Buzzsaw’s roster will be fortified this weekend with the addition of handler Raymond Taylor (hand), who returns from the injured list after missing most of training camp and all of Week 1. Taylor, 30, was a running back for two years at Oklahoma State and one at Tulsa. During those tenures, he bulldozed his way to six touchdowns on the ground, while amassing 581 all-purpose yards and averaging 5.6 yards per carry. At Oklahoma State, Taylor fought his way from being a walk-on to a starter and a key performer for the 10th-ranked Cowboys in 2015. He rushed for 269 yards and seven touchdowns for the IFL’s Duke City Gladiators in 2021.
BUZZ CUT: Defense has been the Buzzsaw’s calling card so far this season. They have permitted just 36.5 PPG, ranking second in the league behind only the Mob (35.3). And they boast one of SlamBall’s most intimidating stoppers in Tyquan Scott, who is second in the league in stops with 39 and third in LBRs with 26. Offensively, the Buzzsaw have been spreading the wealth with four players contributing at least 20 points: Jamaal Barnes Jr. (46), Ralph Bellamy (33), Malik Abdul-Haqq (23) and DeVonte’ Pratt (23). As a team, the Buzzsaw have churned out just 44.0 PPG, which ranks sixth in the league.
GAME 2: RUMBLE (0-2) vs SLASHERS (1-2)
START ME UP: This game will be a great opportunity for one of these teams to jump-start their season. After a 35-point setback to the Mob in their opener, the Rumble were much more competitive in their following outing but still lost by 10 to the Wrath. The Slashers slid by the Lava by four points in their initial contest but were downed by 39 and 19 points their next two times out. Defense has been optional for these two teams this season. The Rumble have allowed the most PPG (69.0) in the league while the Slashers have surrendered the second-most (65.7).
THROUBLE SHOOT: The Rumble are a SlamBall outlier, relying more on perimeter shooting than any other team in the leaguer. That has yet to pay off. They are a combined 5-for-41 (12.2%) from three- and four-point range. While the Rumble are not afraid to launch a bomb at any time in the game, the Slashers have largely ignored jumpers. They have yet to shoot a three-pointer and are 0-2 from beyond the arc.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: There Rumble have been careful with the ball on offense and scrappy on defense. They have turned the ball over a league-low 8.0 times per game and lead all of SlamBall with an average of 30.0 LBRs per contest.
TIPPING POINT: Kaylon Tippins-Hill (Fort Worth, Tex.), who is averaging a team-best 15.0 PPG, has been a bright spot for the Rumble. He’s the only player on the squad averaging more than 8 PPG.
SLASH AND BURN: The Slashers figured to be one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the league, and that played out despite their 1-2 record. A different player has led the team in scoring each game – Alonzo Scott Jr. (Petersburg, Va,.) had 17 points against the Lava on July 21, Bradley Laubacher (Bend, Ore.) posted eight points in July 21’s Main Event loss to the Mob, and Naradain James (Kalamazoo, Mich.) tallied 14 points on July 23 vs. the Mob. And the Slashers’ leading scorer for the season is mighty mite Tony Crosby II (Long Beach, Calif.), who has dropped in 34 points with a team-most 10 dunks.
MINISTER OF DEFENSE: Amir Smith has made 20 stops in three games this season and leads the Slashers in LBRs with 11.
GAME 3: Main Event (Game 1 Winner vs Game 2 Winner)