And the PBL season begins… as does a new photo project…

And I’m on the road to Rochester, New York.

Rochester is home to the Rochester RazorSharks, one of eight teams in the Premier Basketball League.  The PBL is one of the top independent minor leagues in North America, and the teams in the PBL feature some of the best undiscovered hoops talent.

There are three teams that are within a reasonable driving distance for me – the Rochester RazorSharks, the Quebec Kebs, and the (Barre) Vermont Frost Heaves.  The other five teams – the Saint John (N.B.) Mill Rats, the Halifax Rainmen, the Dayton Air Strikers, the Lawton-Fort Sill (Okla.) Cavalry and the (Georgetown) Kentucky Bluegrass Stallions – are just outside of my driving distance.

Where does the PBL fit in the world of minor league basketball?

The NBA is the top professional basketball league in North America.  They have a feeder system, the National Basketball Development League (the NBDL, or “D-League”).  The PBL has talent that is equivalent to the D-League, but the PBL operates as an independent minor league.

What benefits does an independent minor league have?

Let’s say that an NBA team needs a backup center.  That NBA team could sign one of their centers from the one or two D-League teams to which they have an affiliation.  The NBA could also send one of their prospects down to the one or two D-League teams that they partner with.  There are limits to which player can go to which team, and which NBA team can promote which player.

Because the PBL is independent, there is the opportunity for an NBA team to pick a player from any PBL squad’s roster.  There’s also more of an opportunity for players to showcase their skills in front of scouts – whether for an overseas contract, an NBDL contract, or maybe – just maybe – a 10-day call-up to the NBA.

The PBL also has found a niche in markets that appreciate professional basketball and have embraced their teams as part of the community.  Take, for example, the Vermont Frost Heaves.  If you go to a game at the Barre Municipal Auditorium, you will see all sorts of Green Mountain advertising and community tie-ins – and cowbells.  The fans bring cowbells to the game and ring them incessantly.

Now, of course, there’s another question that should be answered.

“How much Albany-based content is part of this league?”

Okay.  The Halifax Rainmen have Tommy Mitchell on their roster; Mitchell played his college ball at Siena, and was on the PBL Atlantic Division champion Manchester Millrats in the 2008-09 season.  The Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry have former Albany Patroon player / head coach Micheal Ray Richardson guiding the team; their players include former Patroon Shaun Fountain (2008-09 season) and Albany Legends MVP DeAndre Thomas.

So what do I do with the PBL?  Lots of things.

I started with the PBL in the 2007-08 season as a photographer and statistician.  Over time, I’ve traveled thousands of miles throughout the Northeast, attending and chronicling PBL games.  It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s a chance to clear my mind of my troubles and worries, and to be part of something exciting and positive.

Plus, I have a special photography project planned for 2011.

Yes, I do.

This is a project that, for all intents and purposes, I’m calling the “PBL Pivot-Flex Play.”  And for now, that’s all I’m going to say about it.  Gotta keep some secrets in my life.