Eddie Smith knows a thing or two about winning championships.
The new Halifax Rainmen guard has won four titles in the past five years in three different leagues and is one of the most proven big-game players in all of minor-professional basketball.
Winning, to Smith, boils down to much more than high-scoring all-stars and X’s and O’s.
“It takes continuity. It takes team chemistry. It takes trust,” Smith said. “It’s hard to build trust if it’s a revolving door (of players). You’ve got to have an anchor, a nucleus to grow from.”
Smith won his championships with the Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry in the Continental Basketball Association and the Premier Basketball League as well as last season with the National Basketball League of Canada’s London Lightning.
Those teams dominated with a core of a half-dozen players that stayed together year after year.
Smith, seeking a change of scenery after leading the Lightning past the Rainmen in last season’s NBL Canada final, arrived in Halifax and joined a team with heavy turnover.
The Rainmen have just two returning players — guard Joey Haywood and forward Darnell Hugee — and are coming off a season that saw them put 23 players in uniform, a franchise record.
The 29-year-old Smith — Halifax’s oldest and most experienced player — said it’s too early to say whether the Rainmen can build the chemistry and trust required to win a championship.
“It takes time — you can’t put a time limit on that, you really can’t,” Smith said. “You can only do your job, come to work, and if the meshing happens, it will happen. You can’t force that issue.”
If the Rainmen do win the first championship in franchise history, Smith will play big role. He was sixth in NBL Canada scoring last season with 17.2 points per game and has a reputation for hitting difficult shots in big moments.
“I’ve always been a gamer,” said the Springfield, Ill., native. “I just always have a will to win. Those shots are like regular shots to me. I feel like I’m going to hit them 100 per cent of the time.”
Smith hasn’t exactly endeared himself with fans at the Metro Centre over the years, but now that he’s wearing a Rainmen jersey, he said the city has given him a warm welcome.
“I put a lot of daggers in this team,” he said. “But most of the fans that do remember me say, ‘I’m glad you’re playing for us, not against us.’”
Smith said he expects a few “heartaches” and “speed-bumps” along the way with a young team, but ultimately, he’s here to win — again.
“Definitely,” he said with a laugh. “If we was playin’ pick-up sticks, I’d want to win.”
The Rainmen play their first games at home this season on Saturday and Sunday. They host the Saint John Mill Rats on Saturday at 7 p.m. and the Moncton Miracles on Sunday at 2 p.m.