In addition to having a well known local coach, AAU South Georgia King founder Jessie Fleming, the Savannah Grizzlies have several players that grew up in Liberty County.
The Grizzlies are a new semi-professional basketball team in the American Basketball Association. This weekend, the team had its first two homes games at Savannah State University’s Tiger arena.
The Grizzlies tipped off against Jacksonville’s East Point Jaguars yesterday.
There is time to catch the team in action today against the Gainesville Heat at 5 p.m.
Admission is $12, children 12 and under get in free.
The Grizzlies had an exhibition game on Nov. 10 and officially opened the season two days ago playing the Shockwaves in Albany.
The squad has familiar faces.
Otho Hampton, Ivan Walthour, Jamil Donovan, Jimmy Farmer, Dana King Jr., Darrell Ware, Warren Goosby, and Nate Gooding all grew up in Liberty County. Most played for Bradwell Institute and later played college ball. Donovan played for Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici.
The Grizzlies also have a former standout from Jesup, Bobby Guyton, and several players from Savannah; Sam Osborne, Maurice Brown, Jumante Waldburg, Austin James, Seth Hallet, Evan Mobley and Rashai Owens.
Joe Mincey comes from Brunswick, Bernard Dixon is from Augusta and Courtney Beach is from Hollywood, Calif.
“We are going to play basketball,” Fleming said during a practice at Faith Baptist. “We had an exhibition game Saturday and we are going to watch some film so I can point some things out to the players.”
Fleming said the team lost 102-90 to the Florida Makos in the exhibition game.
He said Brown, who never played high school or college hoops, shined, scoring 32 points in 18 minutes on the floor. But he added the team fell a little short on defense.
“Hopefully we can show up tomorrow and knock some of those things down and play better defense than we played last Saturday,” Fleming said. “Friday is a big day. Here we go big time … this was something I’ve dreamt of doing as a kid. The red, white and blue basketball. I love it. The NBA has been around a while longer but the ABA red, white and blue … I’ve always wanted to play or coach it.”
According to abalive.com, the original ABA was founded in 1967, competing with the well-established National Basketball Association, until the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
This game has a lot of rules,” Fleming said. “There is a red light, they call it a 3-D rule light … where the guards … if they turn the ball over on a certain area of the court the light comes on … a three-point shot will count as four, a two pointer will count as three with the red light on.”
According to the ABA, if the team commits a foul on defensive during 3-D the number of free throws increase by one.
Fleming said former CBA player and NBA 76er, Tico Brown, is an assistant coach and recruiter. “He came in and he set the offense up for the guys,” Fleming said.
“I’m just waiting until we walk through the doors and walk into the civic center, then I will know it’s real,” he said.