The snow fell, the snow melted. The overcast skies herald a storm. It's Week One of the Grand Army Basketball League: tie your shoes and hitch up your shorts.
8:15 - Team One vs. Team Two
Team One is a tall, rangy collection of basketball talent, with 5 of their 7 players surpassing the 6-foot mark. They're led by captain Whitney Warren, leading scorer on last year's championship squad, who is noted for his deadly foul line jumper. Katie Kinsey and Mark Lee will perform guard duty, while the team's backbone is a vertically-enhanced quartet that some controversial writers are calling 'The Fourth Reich' due to a profusion of Germanic surnames: Ben Heinzerling, Tom Fleischman, Katie Stokien, and Ben Weitmarschen.
They'll be taking on the more diverse Team Two, captained by Kyle Ervin. His speed, along with the variety of swingman David Saie, the post play of Zach Smith, the dead-eye shooting of Andrew Weiner, the quickness of guards Chris Bonastia and Dave Polen, and the as-yet-unseen-and-unscouted female tandem, Allison Cline and Trista Sordillo, make Team Two a veritable handful.
The year's opening game will come down to how effectively Ervin's troops can nullify the size advantage of Team One, particularly on the offensive boards, and whether Warren and company can score with enough frequency to keep pace with Team Two's high-powered offense.
9:00 - Team Three (The Cray's Nest, maybe) vs. Team Four
The Cray's Nest (unofficial name) will be missing its spiritual leader and captain, Jacob Craycroft, going into tonight's battle. They'll be led instead by league veterans Vance Tucker, Jane Rizzo, Shane Ryan, and Gene Walsh, while newcomers Lars Rasmussen and Jordan Glickson are expected to provide an immediate spark. Tucker's offensive prowess is well remembered from last season, while Ryan spearheaded the obsolete Duy Linh Banjos in their runner-up campaign. Walsh, one of the league's more reliable point guards, returns with steady backcourt mate Rizzo.
Jake Berkowitz, captain of Team 4, also leads a depleted squad into Week One. Steve Friedman and Kerry Brown will be missing in action, but a second duo will be more than willing to fill the void. Geoff Nelson and Nate Purinton, nicknamed "Fire & Ice" because of their hot-and-cold tendencies, are looking to pick up where they left off from last year's regular season, when they combined for over 50 points and 10 3s to make the playoffs in a must-win game. They'll also try to exorcise the ghosts from the ensuing postseason, when they struggled in a semi-final loss. But the triangle-and-two, previously an effective strategy against their torrid shooting, may no longer be viable. Pre-season All America center Robert Van Kolken is not to be taken lightly inside, and Jeremy Forsythe provides additional rebounding prowess from the 4. Newcomer Avi Kent will combine with Berkowitz to hold down the guard positions.
The Cray's Nest will be employing a fast-break offense, while Team 4 would prefer a slower game that exploits their rebounding advantage. This clash of styles should make for an interesting affair.
9:45 - Team Five vs. Team Six
Steve Krakauer, a journeyman last year, has sought greater stability in 2010 by recruiting a well-oiled team of co-workers and friends. Captained by Greg Wyrick, this new crew has size and skill in spades. Dan Abrams, Matt Brinkmann, Colby Hall, and Keith Gormley all had impressive preseason performances, and will bring a unique energy into the league. The front line will be anchored by Krakauer, Amy Hauck, a member of last year's championship team, and Steve Reiter, a newcomer recruited from the infamous Harlem leagues.
Rafael Rodriguez, captain of Team 6, leads the GABL's quickest unit. Teamed with his brother Ismael and friend Robin Luna, along with Kieran Valla and Brian Love, he will oversee the fittest, fastest squad on the courts. Patrick Waldo and Kyle Pilkington add size to the fearsome equation.
It will take a concerted effort for Team 5 to contend with the free-and-loose style we expect from Team 6, but their steadiness may prove to be an advantage. It's a classic flash vs. form match-up, and should be tight to the end.