The American Basketball League came through its first season of revival slightly bruised and battered, but still standing, an accomplishment in the midst of the Depression. In a pattern that would mark its entire existence, the new season brought a shuffling of franchises. The departure of the Bronx Americans and the Newark Bears was no surprise because they had sparked little interest on the court and even less at the box office. The transfer of the powerful Trenton Moose squad to Newark was a surprise. A new team, headed by Fiddle Morley, was formed to represent Boston.
The Jewels (now called the New York Jewels, although they continued to play their home games in Brooklyn) still featured a precision ball handling team of seven ex-St. John’s players. The Jewels’ star tandem featuring Mac Kinsbrunner slick ball handling and Allie Schuckman’s outstanding shooting ability remained the best in basketball.
The Philadelphia Sphas, although more offensively minded, closely resembled the Jewels with their tightly knit seven-man roster. The Sphas were stronger upfront because of the presence of beefy forwards Shicky Gotthoffer and Inky Lautman, but did not match up well with Jewels’ guards, despite the heroics of high-scoring Cy Kaselman.
Brooklyn Visitation owner John Donlin overhauled his team after last season’s disastrous 1-8 second-half collapse. He traded sharp shooting Willie Scrill to the Jersey Reds for 6’8″ Howie Bollerman to bolster the rebounding. Donlin paired last year’s center Frank Conaty with CCNY rookie Pete Berensen at forward to complete the restructuring of last year’s battered frontline. In the backcourt, 20-year-old rookie Bobby McDermott proved to be an able partner for league MVP Carlie Johnson.
The Jersey Reds trade of Howie Bollerman to Brooklyn left them to struggle unsatisfactorily through the season with youngsters Bob Synnott and Al Benson at center. Hagen Andersen, a former All-American from NYU, was a welcome addition, joining local favorite Paulie Adams on the frontline.
The move of the Trenton club to Newark met with little success, despite the presence of stars Honey Russell, Rusty Saunders, and Benny Borgmann on the roster. Saunders and Russell showed signs of slowing down, but the 36-year-old Borgmann remained perched among the league’s leading scorers. In mid-January, Newark owner Fred Romp moved the team to New Britain, Connecticut to replace the club in that city that had folded because of financial problems. Boston mentor Fiddle Morley stocked his new team with some of the best-known pro players of the era, including former Celtics Nat Hickey and Davey Banks. Most of his stars, however, were in their early thirties and years beyond their prime. They played well in the first half, but faded badly in the second.
The New York Jewels took the first-half crown handily, while Philadelphia and Brooklyn tied for the second-half title. The Sphas and Visitation split the first two games of the best-of-three series to determine the second-half champ, leaving the deciding contest for Philadelphia’s cozy Broadwood Hotel homecourt. The Sphas took a four point lead with just a minute left in the game but unbelievably let the game slip away 26-25 to end their playoff hopes. The triumph climaxed a roller-coaster year for the Visitation. After going nowhere in the first half, they produced a stirring late-season charge to climb into a first place tie and then defeat the Sphas in back-to-back games at their home Broadwood Hotel court.
In the battle of Brooklyn teams the clubs backcourt aces dominated the action. Youthful Visitation star Bobby McDermott dueled Jewels’ ace Mac Kinsbrunner. The Visitation took two of the first three games, and had a 17-6 lead going into the final period of game four before Kinsbrunner led a Jewels’ comeback to take a one point victory and force a deciding fifth game. The final contest turned out to be an anti-climatic 26-10 thrashing by the Visitation, who captured their first ABL crown.