BLOOMINGTON — As the Bloomington Flex professional basketball team has gone 52-5 the past three seasons, fans have come to expect displays of unselfish offense and lock down defense.
“We just want to keep what’s been going on,” said first-year Coach Carlnel Wiley Jr., whose team opens the season at 1 p.m. Sunday against the St. Louis RiverSharks at Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo.
Wiley credits Flex owner and president Scott Henderson for assembling an impressive roster.
“Thank God for Mr. Henderson putting this team together,” Wiley said. “He’s loaded me up. I’ve got good players.”
Wiley, who replaces A.J. Guyton as coach, finalized his 12-man roster on Friday. The group features five returnees from last year’s 19-0 squad including 6-foot-4 Bloomington native Justin Bocot, a wing-footed guard who played for Southern Illinois.
“We’ve got one goal that is to be the No. 1 team (in the Midwest Professional Basketball Association) at the end of the year,” Wiley said.
“I think we all have a common goal and that’s to win, to develop as men, players... I’m sure they all want to go further (in the profession). That’s the way to better yourself – to win ballgames.”
Other returnees are 6-8 power forward Anthony Slack (Illinois State), 6-10 shot blocker Terrence Green (Augustana), 6-8 center Matt Salley (Bradley) and 6-8 forward Ray Miller (Cal State Fullerton).
Seven guards round out the roster including 6-4 C.J. Hampton (Chicago State), 6-3 Santino Clay (Dakota State), 6-2 Chris Colvin (Arizona State), 6-0 Xavier Jones (Missouri State), 5-10 Fabyon Harris (Texas A&M), 6-1 Quincy Starks (Anoka Ramsey) and 6-6 Brad Carroll (Grand Canyon).
Intra-squad familiarity has set the Flex apart in recent years and Wiley doesn’t see that changing.
“It’s the core,” he said. “It’s all about chemistry.”
Bocot told Wiley the Flex style involves playing together and playing defense.
“That meant a lot to me,” Wiley said. “They are buying in early.
“My style of coaching is pretty much the same way. I think unselfishness wins championships. If you are going to make a play for your teammate, that’s what we want. There will be guys that want to come play for us. Our unselfishness started the first day of practice.”
Wiley met Green while both were with the Reno Bighorns of the National Basketball Development League. Wiley calls Green a player who will “make everything difficult for our opponents.”
Clay, who has a 47-inch vertical jump, is coming off a tour with the Harlem Globetrotters. Miller can “run like a deer and jump out of this world,” added Wiley.
As for the rest his roster, Wiley labels Hampton “a beast,” Harris “a fast point guard,” Salley “a lunch pail guy,” Jones “a pretty good shooter,” Miller “extremely solid,” Colvin “a real pest” on defense, Harris “a little fireball” and Carroll a 3-point threat who can “light it up.”
Wiley expects the veterans to share leadership responsibilities.
“Leadership trickles on down,” he notes.
Wiley has yet to settle on a starting lineup for the opener, but he may go with Harris, Bocot, Hampton, Salley and Green. Their opponent, the RiverSharks, opened Friday against the Gateway Steam, whose roster includes Bloomington native D’Mitri Riggs.
“They don’t know what I got and I don’t know what they got,” Wiley said of the RiverSharks.
All Wiley knows is that foes will have trouble if Flex traditions continue.