The La Crosse Showtime will be without two of its starting players when tipping off against the Libertyville Vipers on Saturday, but it’s for a very good reason.
Central High School graduate Louis McGuire and Steven McAfee Jr. are on a 10-day trip in China to play in a few games and serve as ambassadors for the Showtime and the American Basketball Association.
McAfee is the team’s leading scorer averaging 22.4 points per game.
“I’m grateful to be playing anywhere overseas,” McGuire said. “I hear basketball in China is big, and that they have a lot of teams.”
The objective of the trip is to get noticed by a some new eyes and hopefully land a contract overseas.
The Showtime were playing the Chicago Steam on the road earlier this month when the ball on the trip started rolling. There, Steam coach Mitchell Anderson offered the entire La Crosse starting five the opportunity to head to China.
“Part of the ABA is getting these guys exposure,” Showtime owner and coach Scott Pooler said. “We know what we’re here for. We play in so many cities, and a lot of the coaches and owners in the ABA have played overseas or have contacts overseas.
“If we can help each other out, it helps the league in general,” Pooler added. “At the end of the day, we want these guys to further their careers.”
All five players were interested, but realized that getting a passport on such short notice would be tricky. McGuire and McAfee had passports ready, so they agreed to go.
The two Showtime players will join members of the Steam on the trip.
“I had a passport, so why not go?” McGuire said. “I’m not saying no. I’m going to be traveling all around China, and I’ll be playing with a team in China. We’re also going to be coaching little kids and helping out with little programs here and there. It’s pretty much going to be having fun, playing basketball and traveling all around China.”
McGuire led the Showtime (4-6) with eight rebounds in last Saturday’s loss to the Windy City Groove. He also scored 13 points and had eight rebounds in a Dec. 3 win over No. 11 West Michigan.
McGuire played his college ball at Western. As a freshman, McGuire scored 222 points for the Cavaliers in 2010-11.
“Louie is the type of a lunch-pail guy,” Pooler said. “He comes to work and brings everything he’s got.”
McAfee, meanwhile, is a Beloit College graduate originally from Chicago. He led the Showtime in scoring with 22 points in a loss to No. 5 Kentucky a couple weeks ago, then scored 23 against West Michigan.
As a senior for Beloit in 2015-16, McAfee was a d3hoops.com All-Central Region recipient and was first-team all-conference in the Midwest Conference.
“Steven has continued to get stronger,” Pooler said. “He chooses his shots wisely for the most part. He’s a great kid to coach. He listens and never complains.”
Robert Powell and West Salem’s Michael Southall will start in the absence of McGuire and McAfee. Southall is coming off a left ankle injury and started playing this month.
Southall is averaging 17.2 points per game after playing five games.
The Showtime have lost two games in a row. They lost on a buzzer-beater to Kentucky two weeks ago and the Showtime shot 33 percent.
In last Saturday’s loss to the Groove, La Crosse shot 40 percent with Windy City applying its press throughout the game.
“We have the players to step up,” Pooler said. “The guys know this is part of the game, and they could sign contracts. People have to step up.”