The American Basketball Association has launched a new semi-pro basketball team in Savannah that will be coached by a local basketball figure.
South Georgia Kings founder Jessie Fleming signed a contract two weeks ago, making him the new coach for the Savannah Grizzlies.
Fleming said it presents a new chapter in his coaching career and welcomed the opportunity
“It’s another level going from dealing with amateurs and jumping into dealing with professionals, but it’s not that hard because the program that I have been running for the past 10 years had players that went on to play at the next level,” he said.
Fleming said the connections he made with college coaches across the United States helped him secure the job. Fleming always was showcasing his different King teams, getting players noticed and signed to college scholarships.
“I dealt with a lot of college coaches while getting these younger players recruited, so they called me… It’s another level because the training changes,” he said. “I’m under contract, and we have to get things done. And I plan to get some wins.”
Fleming said they signed a few players last week.
“We just got a kid from Portugal. His name is Jessan Gray, who played at Iowa State,” Fleming said. “He is 28 years old and 6-foot 10 and he is the face of the program right now. I have a kid that played in the area. Joe Mensi who played for Glynn Academy back in the day.”
Fleming also signed former Faith Baptist Crusader basketball player and former Bradwell Institute Tiger Nate Gooding.
“It felt like a big accomplishment not only for basketball, but for me as a person coming from where I started and to now be able to say that I’m a professional basketball player,” Gooding said. “It’s like a dream come true honestly.”
He said he hopes this is his first step toward a shot to play in the NBA.
Gooding said he’s known Fleming for some time and is looking forward to be guided by him.
“I know Jessie fairly well, growing up playing AAU basketball even though I played for the Rebels,” Gooding said. “A lot of my friends played for him and he is an awesome coach. He has so much knowledge of the game being a former player. I’m looking forward to playing for him and learning a lot from him this season.”
Fleming said he won’t be parting ways with the Kings.
“Leonard Hall, Tico Brown, Shane Smith Donnie Woods have been the coaches and leaders,” Fleming said. “I’ve mostly dealt with the college coaches and camps. I’m not coaching anymore but I will be on the sidelines. I have to do that… This is my baby.
In fact the SGK are now part of the ABA’s junior league.
“It is a league for ages 5-14 and the other ABA teams have their junior league and we have games and playoffs against each other,” Fleming said.
The Grizzlies are currently going through 30 days of training camp and Fleming said more guys are trying out now that the word has spread.
The Savannah Grizzlies will play in the Atlantic South Conference. Their schedule is being finalized.