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title icon Breakers open season at Staples

Ex-UCSB star Merrill joins squad

Dave Loveton – 3/30/2008

The Santa Barbara Breakers will open their second pro basketball season on Monday with some familiar faces playing in unfamiliar surroundings. The Breakers will take on the Orange County Gladiators at 1 p.m. at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in the inaugural game of the West Coast Basketball League.

One of the new faces will be former UCSB star Josh Merrill, a 6-9 forward who was recently signed by the Breakers’ owner and coach, Curt Pickering. Merrill, who’s the sports paster at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Northridge, is a 6-9 forward who led the Gauchos to the Big West Conference Western Division title in 1999.

“Any time you start a season and you’re playing in an NBA venue, there’s added incentive,” said Pickering. “The players are real excited to be playing in the same place as the Lakers and the Clippers.”

Tyler Newton, a 6-10 center from the University of Pacific, is a name that’s familiar to Santa Barbara fans. Newton averaged 12.7 points and 8.4 rebounds last year and was the only Breaker to appear in all 23 games during a 17-6 campaign. He’ll be joined by ex-Pacific teammate Allan Purnell and 7-1 Rashid Byrd — who both played for the Breakers last year — along with former USC player Jerry Dupree. Shantay Legans, a former Dos Pueblos High and Cal standout, will miss the game with a thumb injury.

Merrill and Byrd are currently appearing on the big screen in the Will Ferrell’s basketball movie, “Semi-Pro.”

The Breakers finished second in the Western Conference of the International Basketball League last year, averaging 133.4 points. Orange County averaged nearly 120 points and placed fourth with a 14-12 record in the West Division of the American Basketball Association, which completed play in early March.

Santa Barbara’s will open its 13-game home campaign on the weekend on April 11-12 at SBCC’s Sports Pavilion. For tickets, call 685-5600 or visit www..santabarbarabasketball.com.

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