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'Tis the season: Hoop Season!

Idaho Stampede to debut new roster, new league

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It's that time of year again when topless frat dudes with college acronyms painted on their chests put their shirts back on and go inside. Yes, football is nearing its bittersweet end and it's time to cheer the start of basketball season.

In Boise, basketball season means the Idaho Stampede. You can, of course, consider college basketball in this category, but not if you like to watch players who can actually dunk a ball.

This year, the Stampede has moved up in the minor league basketball ranks. No longer lingering in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), the Stampede is now officially in the NBA Development League, affiliated with the Utah Jazz and the Seattle Supersonics. This is a hearty bump up in the world of farm league basketball--in fact, some experts predict the D-League is the future of the NBA minor leagues. CBA, it was nice knowin' ya.

In the D-League, players have the chance to travel (pun intended) in and out of major NBA teams. Even players now listed in the NBA might slide down the fire pole into the D-League at any moment, and wind up on a Boise court. This month, the Stampede begins its ninth season at downtown Boise's Qwest Arena.

So who are the ballers lucky enough to play in Boise? Last week at Hooter's, the Stampede hosted a party during the actual D-League draft while it was being televised on NBATV. The Stampede draft party was roaring with prize giveaways, drink specials, an appearance by the Stampede Spirit dancers and the team's coyote mascot Rumble (forget that the team logo is a horse--maybe the coyote costume was on sale when the team adopted Rumble in 1997).  

The serpentine draft was live via teleconference to the NBA Store in New York City. Fans watched Stampede head Ccoach Bryan Gates, assistant coach Ray Lopes and staff make their picks from out side the "war room," a glassed-off private area, or Hooters VIP Room, if you will.

"This is like [picking teams for] fantasy football, but your job depends on it," Stampede director of sales and marketing Vince Hordemann said during a break from psyching up the crowd. "This is the start of a professional career for many of these guys ... it's an exciting time."

The Stampede had the ninth pick out of twelve in the first round of the draft, and though Gates' top eight choices were gone in the first eight picks, they got ninth choice Peter John Ramos, a mustachioed 7-foot, 3-inch center played high school ball in Puerto Rico with current Stampede player Ricky Sanchez. Sanchez, who was at the draft party, whooped with delight with the selection of Ramos.

Ramos was listed on the Washington Wizards roster during the 2005-06 season but spent the majority of the season playing with the D-League's Roanoke Dazzle where he averaged 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

The Stampede also picked former Chicago Bull and Charlotte Hornets forward Eddie Robinson, Dexter Lyons of Central Florida, Jeff Graves of Kansas, Clifton Lee of Northwestern State, Ronell Taylor of University of Alabama at Birmingham, J.T. Williams of McNeese State, Sam Daghlas of Midwestern State, Duke Freeman-McKamey of Fordham, and Mike Efevberha of California State-Northridge.

The first pick of the draft went to expansion Anaheim Arsenal, and they selected Corsley Edwards, a 6-foot, 9-inch forward from Central Connecticut State. Edwards, Northeast Conference player of the year as a senior, was Gates' third pick, but Coach Gelband would have picked him first, too.

To be eligible for the 2006 draft, a player must have signed a standard D-League player contract. So, even though most of us aren't qualified because of this teensy requirement, you can still watch the guys who are sweat and squeak up and down the court. Basketball season: It's the most wonderful time of the year.

The Idaho Stampede's regular season first home game is Friday, Nov. 24, against the Colorado 14ers at 7 p.m. in the Qwest Arena.