Five announce signings, unveil new jerseys

Brady Skeens’ decision to sign with the Sudbury Five was the start of new chapter in his basketball career, but certainly one with a recognizable character.

From left, Sudbury Five head coach and general manager Logan Stutz, forward Georges Serresse, guard Joey Puddister, forward Brady Skeens and owner Dario Zulich pose for a photo to unveil the team's new jerseys and announce the signings of returnees Serresse and Puddister, as well as newcomer Skeens, for the 2019-20 National Basketball League of Canada season. Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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Brady Skeens’ decision to sign with the Sudbury Five was the start of new chapter in his basketball career, but certainly one with a recognizable character.

The 6-foot-7 forward is from Kansas City, Mo., which also happens to be the hometown of Five head coach and general manager Logan Stutz. The 6-foot-7, 211-pounder even played college ball at Washburn University, in nearby Topeka, where Stutz starred before turning pro.

“We got to talking with coach Stutz and we knew he had some success up here, and I know being able to learn from him will be a good experience for me,” said Skeens, 24. “He also told me how great it was up here in Sudbury and in Canada, and when I was looking to play somewhere, Canada was one of the places that I wanted to play at. And when he explained to me about the city and the town and how great the attendance is at games, how much the community is active with this basketball team, it was a pretty easy decision for me.”

Stutz’s positive reviews of the city and its fanbase have been reflected in Skeens’ earliest visits, such as the press conference held Tuesday at Overtime Sports Bar and Grill, where he was introduced, along with returning forward Georges Serresse and guard Joey Puddister, as one of the first signees for the upcoming National Basketball League of Canada season.

The trio also modelled the Five’s new home, away and third jerseys.

“I have been taken around a little bit by the coaches, I have been helping at their youth camps with the academy, and the thing I notice is that people are really friendly and they’re welcoming,” Skeens said. “I have had people come up to me and tell me how glad they are that I’m here and how excited they are for this season.”

That’s encouraging for Stutz, who hopes to follow a successful inaugural campaign in the NBLC, during which the Five posted a 21-19 record, with an even better sophomore year.

“I’m really excited,” Stutz said. “We’re really close to being right where we want to be. We have some great players signed back, we announced three of them today that I’m excited about, the team chemistry is going to be there, the support is always there, the partnerships are growing every day. There’s a lot of good things going on in Sudbury.”

Skeens scored 1,229 points for Washburn, shooting with a school-record 68.8 per cent efficiency, but while Stutz will no doubt welcome any offence from the newcomer, Sudbury’s coach believes he will provide just as big a boost on the other side of the ball.

In four years at Washburn, Skeens was named defensive player of the year for his conference three times.

“He brings a lot of energy, he’s long and he plays defence,” Stutz said. “We were lacking defence last year and he won defensive player of the year three years in a row in his Division II conference, so he’s got a knack for defensive rebounding. He just has to get introduced to professional-level basketball and I think he’ll do very well for us this year.”

While acknowledging that there may be an adjustment period once action tips off in late November, Skeens definitely hopes to be a contributor this coming season.
“I can guarantee that I’ll play my hardest every game,” he said. “I’m not going to be perfect, but I’m going to try as hard as I can to be. I’ll give it all for the team and the city and the coaches and the community. I can guarantee that, for sure.”

The players owe that much to their fans, said Serresse, a 28-year-old Sudbury product who listed the team’s strong support during its first season in the NBLC — Sudbury ranked fourth of 10 teams in average attendance, with 2,048 fans per game — as a major factor in his decision to return.

“Everywhere we would go, you would have that support,” Serresse, who appeared in a total of 42 games last season. “I remember being at away games and seeing people with Sudbury Five stuff on, so that’s always a good thing when you’re playing for the city.”

An important bench player and occasional starter last season, the 6-foot-5 Serresse hit double digits for points on five occasions, including three out of four games in February. He’d like to play an even greater role in 2019-20.

“You always look at what you brought to the table last year and hope to do even more,” Serresse said. “That’s my individual goal that I’m trying to accomplish for this season. As a team, the main objective is to try and win a championship.”

That’s the plan for Stutz, as well, even if he avoided saying so during his first year as an executive and bench boss.

“We didn’t say that, because we didn’t know what we were getting into,” Stutz said. “We just wanted to be entertaining and successful, but I believe that is the objective this year, to make the run at the championship.”

To do so, he said, he’ll need players the likes of Serresse and Puddister, the latter a 27-year-old North Bay native whose experience also includes runs with both Canadore College and Nipissing University, before a pro stint in Europe. The swift six-footer joined the Five in mid-January.

“Character — that’s something you can’t replace,” Stutz said. “These guys are very professional and they’re good basketball players, too. They’re some of the best talent for the area and all of that combined, it’s a winning formula.”

Stutz plans to announce more player signings in the coming weeks, including several returnees.

Sudbury opens the pre-season on home court this Nov. 22, against defending-champion Moncton.

The Five will tip off the NBLC regular season with a trip to Kitchener-Waterloo on Dec. 28, then a home game against London on Dec. 30.

bleeson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @ben_leeson

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