Team-by-team PBA Draft analysis
By Steve Samek
In the shadow of the World Series, professional bowling is gearing up for a couple of major events. One of which is the United States Open and one is bowling’s own World Series.
Though all of these are singles events, the Professional Bowling Association (PBA) also offers team play. Behold the PBA League.
The PBA league is a team contest of eight five-person squads going at it to win the Elias Cup, named after PBA founder Eddy Elias.
The teams each have a manager that protects and drafts players, and each team is allowed to hold onto up to three players before drafting two.
Let’s analyze the most recent PBA Draft.
Diving in, the first are the Philadelphia Hitmen. The captain for this team is Dom Barrett. He was joined by holdovers Tom Smallwood and Chris Loschetter.
The Hitmen had the first pick in the draft and selected Ronnie Russell. Russell is a solid top pick – probably the best available of those drafted. Russell has won three career titles solo on the main tour and seven on the regional circuit.
He just recently won the 2016 PBA Team Challenge with team Merica Rooster Illusion. Russell has participated on a league team every season the league has been offered. \
Additionally, Russell bowls on Team USA and won a gold medal in the doubles and team events at the 2016 PABCON championships. This gives Russell significant team experience and value as a draft pick.
Rounding out the Hitmen is Mr. Irrelevant and 16th overall pick Dave Wodka. Wodka returns to Philadelphia this season. Even being the last pick, this isn’t a good selection for Philadelphia. Wodka isn’t a strong contender.
A PBA member sense 1990, he has no tour titles to his name. His best finish is fifth at the 2015 Maine Shootout. This season his best finish is 15th twice. Wodka has been a league member since the beginning, and that’s why he got picked. He knows what the league competition is like. I would also say that having the fifth-place finish come in the same bowling center where league matches aids Wodka, but to me the selection is underwhelming.
Next is the defending champions in the Dallas Strikers. Dallas selected eighth and ninth. The first of the back to back selections was Rhino Page. Page could be a steal for Dallas, getting the chance to return to his 2016 squad.
Page has shown flashes of good play but hasn’t lived up to hype. He was the 2007-2008 Rookie of the Year, but he only owns three titles, none of which are majors. His last solo title came in 2010. However, Page was also a part of the 2016 PBA Team Challenge winners.
Another benefit to this selection is Page won the 2015 George Young High average award with a 227 mark. Page and Captain Norm Duke are also Storm bowling staff teammates making them familiar with each other’s games.
BJ Moore then went to Dallas with the ninth pick. Moore is an up-and-coming player from England. He was on the Dallas Strikers in 2016. Moore has won a single title on the regional tour and has a best finish of sixth.
This is a solid pick made with team unity in mind. Why tamper with a team that won a title last season?
Moore, Page and Duke are joined by returning players Tommy Jones and Bill O’Neil.
Third up is are the New York City WTT Kingpins. The Kingpins are previous champions of this event. Holdovers from last year are Marshall Kent, Pete Webber and John Szczerbinski. Added in the draft were Sam Cooley and Danielle McEwan.
Cooley is a new player on tour. The Australian has to be a pick based on potential, or team chemistry. I am very much unsure with this pick, but he could surprise me .
McEwan is a great pickup for New York. She is one of the strongest players on the women’s tour. She was a collegiate standout at Farleigh Dickinson University, and she won a tournament in Qatar that didn’t count as a PBA title due to handicap for women entering a men’s tournament. She is also a Team USA member and a strong international competitor.
The fourth squad is L.A.X. They are highlighted by current player of the year Jason Belmonte. Resigned from last year are Martin Larson and Stuart Williams. The X drafted Jakob Butturff and Osku Palermaa.
Butturuff just won a title recently and is bowling well. Palermaa is overshadowed by Belmonte as a two-handed bowler, but does have a major title win in 2011-2012. It was a good draft by LA adding the two-hander and a young gun.
In the fifth positionis the Motown Muscle. The muscle retained E.J Tackett, Josh Blanchard and Anthony Simonsen. Added to the lineup was Dick Allen and Francois Lavoie.
Allen has been in the league every season, but needs to go. His last title was in 2011, and his last best finish sense is 4th. I call this pick veteran presence to go with the young ones.
Lavoie is a young gun out of powerhouse Wichita State with experience on Team Canada. There is a lot to love about this young team and how hard they throw the ball. Watch out.
Sixth up were the Brooklyn Styles, AKA team Brunswick. Each member has a staff contract with them. Sean Rash, Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Parker Bohn III highlight the returning members.
Up next are the Silver Lake Atom Splitters. Chris Barnes is the captain alongside 2016 mates Tom Daugherty and Jesper Svensson. D.J Archer and Shawn Maldonado were selected to out the team.
Archer has seen significant time in league, but is underwhelming. Maldonado is rising fast on the tour and was a steal from Dallas’s 2016 champions team. This is a decent squad with a chance, but the Archer pick should be the deal breaker.
The final squad serves as the home team: the Portland Lumberjacks. Wes Malott, Ryan Ciminelli and Bryon Smith are the returning players with draft picks Liz Johnson and Kyle Troup.
Catch the PBA league matches from April 15 to May 14 next year.