Minor league hoops provide enjoyment, chance to sharpen skills, stay in shape shape

Kurt Snyder

Former Kent State guard Jason Edwin ended his collegiate career last month and is now playing with the Akron Lightning of the International Basketball League.

Credit: Beth Rankin

The International Basketball League is a long way from the NBA.

How far?

For Rashaun Warren, playing for the Akron Lightning means wearing someone else’s name and number on his jersey because he just joined the team last week.

For the Grand Rapids Flight, it means a game check, which is literally a game check, as the players collected on their way out the door after beating the Lightning 132-125 Saturday night at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.

Warren and Jason Edwin, former Kent State basketball players, both play for the newly-formed Lightning. The Lightning lost its third game in four tries Saturday. Sure, Warren would like to win, but playing the game is all about fun for him. He has never played professional basketball since he exhausted his eligibility for the Flashes in 2001.

“This is for purely enjoyment right now, just having a chance to play organized ball again and get to play with a new group of guys,” Warren said. He was put in contact with the team after recently talking to an alumnus at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Warren played in short spurts each quarter against Grand Rapids. Before fouling out, he was aggressive underneath the basket and battled for 17 points. His first basket came via the Kent State connection when Edwin alley-ooped to Warren off of an inbound-play from underneath the basket.

Edwin is only one month removed from his final game for the Flashes. He made a huge splash in the Lightning’s first game when he scored 31 points in a loss at Youngstown April 9. He had a tougher night Saturday. He shot just 7-for-23 from the field and made only one of his 10 3-point attempts in 33 minutes of action.

Edwin said he was recommended to the team by Flashes former assistant coach Geno Ford. Edwin is hoping to use his first professional experience as a springboard into a possible opportunity next fall in the NBA Developmental League or overseas.

“I think it’s just something right now to keep my skills sharp,” he said.

The Lightning are trying to take advantage of local stars like Edwin to get its feet off the ground. All of the players either live in Northeast Ohio or played collegiately in the area. Similarly, the International Basketball League is aimed to create excitement with the college 3-point line and a 22-second shot clock.

The league is an adjustment for Edwin. He was used primarily as a spot-up shooter for the Flashes. But Saturday, Lightning coach Jeff Snead yelled at Edwin to cut toward the basket after a potential backdoor pass went sailing out of bounds.

“I think college is more structured where you are designated to a certain role,” said Edwin, who even played a few possessions at point guard.

The Lightning’s next home game is at 7 p.m. against Dayton May 7.

Contact managing editor Kurt Snyder at [email protected].