By Lee Hubbard
While the National Basketball Association is in a lock out between its league owners and its players and league play looks as if it might not happen next year, basketball will still be played. There are various professional leagues across the world in Europe and a growing minor league basketball presence in the United States.
The bay area will be home to professional basketball in five months, with the new Richmond Rockets franchise due to the American Basketball Association’s expansion to Richmond, California. The Rockets will launch their inaugural season November 2011 with home games played at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium. Keith Hazell, head of basketball operations for the team, and a former European professional basketball player said, “We are a grassroots basketball league that will be exciting and provide affordable family entertainment in Richmond.”
Eric Marquis, a Promotional Consultant and a former garment industry executive is the owner of the team. He has big plans for the team and area, “My goal is to establish a successful ABA team as an integral part of the city, building a winning tradition while benefiting the Richmond community,” said Marquis. The Rockets will be coached by Lamar Baker, a high school basketball standout in San Francisco and a former Junior College basketball All American at San Francisco City College and a player at USF and the University of Hawaii. He honed his coaching skills playing under legendary coach Brad Duggan and Hazell believes he has what it takes to make the Rockets succeed.
The ABA league has 90 teams across the U.S., making it one of the largest professional sports league in the country. In its heyday, ABA established the three-point shot and the red, white and blue basketball and produced various NBA stars. The ABA will begin in November and run through March. The Rockets will play the Northern California division of the ABA, consisting of teams such as the Bay Area Matrix, the Sacramento Heatwave, Central Valley Titans, California Sea Kings, San Francisco Rumble, East Bay Pit bulls, Modesto Hawks and the Seattle Mountaineers.
The Rockers will play 30 games of the season, with 15 home games in Richmond. The team roster will consist of twelve players mainly composed of college seniors and basketball community legends. Hazell is positive that the team and league will be a family friendly environment and offer a nice brand of basketball and entertainment to people, as well as provide jobs in the sports world in various capacities, ranging from sales, to vendors, dancers, to scouts, to marketing executives. Hazell said, “We want to work with community groups and faith based organizations to bring healthy and clean entertainment to the community.”
The Rockets will be having its first open tryout on July 30th at the Richmond PAL gym, 2200 McDonald Ave., at 8 a.m. For more information on the Richmond Rockets you can go to their web-site at www.richmondrockets.net.