The Orlando Pro Am is back and so is the Pedro’s Posse, something of a fluid institution in the league having won one title and played for another. As always, the team is coached by Juan Bernal, the Greg Popovich of Pro Am hoops, and features “ride or die” veteran Brock Blanchard. The rest of the players, staff and entourage are in constant, but ultimately entertaining flux.
The original title-winning Pedro’s Posse featured a roster of active/recently active Division II players and Oregon State’s Ricky Claitt. Co-founder, John Ptiektiewicz, assembled a cohesive roster free of malcontents and blatantly crazy guys, that found a wonderful calibration behind lead guard DJ Ferguson, Claitt, timely three point shooting and solid interior play. The title run is best remembered for close games won through the eternal virtue of esprit de corps.
Season two was difficult. Many of the core players were unavailable, and it was difficult to field a team night in and night out. Semi-retired veterans like Zach Pancratz and dubious fill-ins like Brett Williams were called in to fill out the team and the results were spotty. The only bright spot was the mesmerizing play of Kyle McClanahan, who dropped 20-30 a night, driving to the basket with an array of lay ups and floaters. With his singular brilliance, the Posse may not have survived this dark and horrible stretch.
Things changed dramatically in season three with the addition of NBA players Courtney Lee and Chandler Parsons. The team dominated throughout the season and acquired a cultish following, but even a bench three rows deep with hanger’s on could not prevent a gut-wrenching loss in the final. Juan Bernal’s raw and emotional post-game tweets are legendary, but there was a sense that night that he and the Posse had pushed the Orlando Pro Am to a new level.
Season Four was a star studded affair with appearances from Parsons, Austin Rivers, Big Baby Davis, Joey Rodriguez, Mo Speights, Jason Williams and Patrick Ewing Jr.. The Posse enjoyed a heady start to the season, but as the summer commitments of the NBA guys thickened the roster fell apart and the season ended in misery.
Last night the Posse won there second game of the season in as many tries, a come from behind win directed by Nick Calathes. The roster was only six deep and needed contributions of one-time laughingstock Pausha, who to his credit has moved on from the three straight isolation plays that were his undoing last season, to log twenty minutes last night and post five points. It was an understated effort, but things are looking up as Parsons, Rivers, Lee and others should be available for chunks of the season.
Pedro’s Posse in it’s fifth season is an organization that has experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows, but remains intact and representative of the core value of good guys looking for a good run.