The Bellingham Slam employs a frenetic, fast-break style of basketball that tests the limitations of a scoreboard operator.
Their lone job? Just making sure to keep up.
"Everything is excitement and speed," Slam veteran Morris Anderson said.
While some can handle it, a 17-4 record in 2012 implies most can't.
The Slam offense produced 131 points per game last season, guiding Bellingham to an International Basketball League championship after a 142-109 win against Portland in the title game, its first league championship since its inaugural season in the IBL in 2008.
And on the heels of the 2013 season, Bellingham finds itself in the unique position of being the hunted, not the hunter.
"It's fun coming in and defending a championship," Slam coach Rob Ridnour said in a phone interview. "(Guys) coming back have that desire to be successful again, and that drive to defend the title."
Bellingham begins its regular season on Friday, April 19, against the Vancouver Volcanoes at Whatcom Community College's Whatcom Pavilion. Opening tip is set for 7 p.m.
With a roster that is continually in flux, Ridnour, who half-jokingly said, "I just show up and coach. Whoever shows up, we go," has had the luxury of a veteran like Anderson leading his free-flowing offense.
"It's an open game, and Mo has learned how to open passing lanes by moving defenders and penetrating in the right areas," Ridnour said. "He has a good sense of where people are, how to set people up."
Now entering his fourth season with the Slam, Anderson, a former Western Washington University standout from 2008-10, has been a mainstay in Ridnour's offense, playing in 61 of 63 games since donning a Slam jersey. Becoming as familiar with Ridnour's offense as he has, Anderson explained his increasingly important role as the point guard for the Slam.
"I am the quarterback of the team, and I just lead them," he said. "If I show how aggressive I am, they will follow. I have to go out there with the mentality of, 'I'm going to do this and do that, not just go through the motions of the game.'"
Since arriving, Anderson has developed into one of Bellingham's most dynamic scorers, punctuated by his 29-point performance in the IBL championship game, which earned him MVP honors to go along with his third straight All-Star selection.
The development in Anderson's offensive game has been recognizable; a mere glance at his scoring averages illustrates his growing comfort in the league. In his first season, he averaged 12.9 points per game. Incrementally, he went up to 15.7 the next year, and then 21.4 last year.
Is 25 realistic for this year? Anderson said he believes so.
"I told myself I want to make at least 25 points per game (while) doing whatever I can for the team," Anderson said. "And if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. Just as long as we win."
Joining the backcourt of former WWU guards Anderson, Andrew Ready and Derrick Webb will be the familiar face of Rico Wilkins.
Wilkins, who just recently saw his WWU career end two wins shy of a second national championship, is already making an impression on the veterans.
"In practice, it was hard running on the fast breaks with Rico - trying to chase him down," Anderson said. "He is pretty quick, so he is going to get away from most guys. ... A lot of excitement is going to happen this year (with him)."
The move to the Slam is fitting for Wilkins, considering the electric tempo of his game and his propensity to score in bunches.
"I'm up and down, fast-paced type of game," Wilkins said. "I might be expected to give a bit more offense than at Western, and that will be fun for me, because I really am a scorer, and I came into Western as a scorer. It will be nice to go back to the way I used to play."
The same Wilkins that scored 43 points in a single half in high school is a strong fit for what Ridnour and the Slam do, but the head coach isn't expecting too much from the first-year guard.
"He can score in flurries, but you just don't know until you get into the games and he adjusts to the speed of the game and the strength," Ridnour said.
Other key returners include double-double machine Blake Poole and eight-year man Jacob Stevenson.
Poole, who averaged 18.8 points per game and 13.4 rebounds last year, will miss the first few games for Bellingham as he finishes up his season in Germany.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or 360-715-2271.
2013 SLAM SCHEDULE
April 19 Vancouver 7 p.m.
April 21 at Vancouver 5 p.m.
April 26 Kitsap 7 p.m.
May 3 at Portland 7 p.m.
May 4 at Salem 7 p.m.
May 10 Japan 7 p.m.
May 17 Japan* 7 p.m.
May 19 Lone Star 5 p.m.
May 24 at Salem 7 p.m.
May 27 Portland 5 p.m.
June 1 Seattle+ 7 p.m.
June 2 at Kitsap 5 p.m.
June 9 East Bay 5 p.m.
June 11 at Portland 7 p.m.
June 16 at Japan 7 p.m.
June 21 Vancouver 7 p.m.
June 22 at East Bay 7 p.m.
June 29 Salem 7 p.m.
June 30 at Seattle 7 p.m.
*at Lynden High School; at Blaine High School
2013 SLAM ROSTER
No. Player Pos. Age Ht. Wt. 2012 ppg
3 Rico Wilkins G 24 5-11 175 N/A
5 Derrick Webb G 26 6-3 190 10.1
8 Chris Ferguson G 30 5-11 185 N/A
11 Morris Anderson G 26 6-3 170 21.4
15 Drew Ready G 26 6-1 185 13.8
22 Jacob Stevenson G 32 6-4 220 17.3
24 Chas Kok F 24 6-6 195 6.4
31 Calin Schell F 27 6-7 225 5.2
33 Nick Moore F 29 6-7 220 16.2
42 Evan Matteson C 23 6-10 235 14.3
44 Blake Poole C 24 6-5 275 18.8