Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Isles net
pro hoops

The American Basketball
Association adds Hawaii
to its roster

Fresh off the failure of the Hawaiian Islanders indoor football team, a local group plans on giving professional basketball a try in Hawaii.

American Basketball Association founder and Chief Executive Officer Joe Newman announced yesterday that Hawaii has been granted a franchise in the basketball league, bringing the number of teams to 70.

The ownership group is headed by former Olympic bronze medalist Orrys Williams, an aerospace engineer who owns a sports marketing company and has done extensive work in finding local athletes professional jobs overseas.

"We are going to do the real thing," Williams said. "We have a whole state to work with. Other guys (in the league) only have a city. If we approach it the right way, we are going to make sure Hawaii is back on the map."

The Hawaiian Islanders professional football team folded last year after three seasons.

Williams says he already has scouts on the mainland and will fill out his squad from the talent in summer leagues in California. He says he plans to hire a local coach and promises to have at least three local players on the roster at all times.

Williams says a local player like Ikaika Alama-Francis, a Star-Bulletin All-State first-teamer at Kalaheo, is just what he is looking for. The 6-6 Alama-Francis walked on at the University of Hawaii but after one year switched to football, where he has seen action at defensive end.

"So many of these Hawaiian kids never get a chance," Williams said. "They will have tremendous competition but this can be their opportunity."

Williams says he has been in negotiations with the Blaisdell Arena for 18 to 20 home dates and will look to local airlines and hotels for help in travel and hosting visiting teams, as well as television and radio stations to get his product on the air.

Williams plans to call a press conference in April. The ABA is in the midst of its playoffs but had the Utah Snowbears pull out of the tournament because of what owner/coach Ike Austin called "the players' best interests."

The 4-year-old ABA is not affiliated with the NBA or the old ABA, which competed against the NBA from 1967-76. The league is made up mostly of former NBA players and those hoping to impress NBA scouts.

Local players such as Alexus Foyle and Yuta Tabuse of Brigham Young University-Hawaii and Rashad Davis of Hawaii Pacific University are currently in the league, along with former NBA players Cedric Ceballos and Dennis Rodman. The next ABA season begins in November.

Cities that added ABA teams last year include Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Detroit; Gwinnett, Ga.; Hershey, Pa.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Little Rock, Ark.; Louisville, Ky.; Mahwah, N.J.; Minot, N.D.; Nashville, Tenn.; Pensacola, Fla.; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; Reno, Nev.; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Already in the league were teams from Long Beach and Fresno, Calif.; Las Vegas; Philadelphia; Kansas City, Mo.; and Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

American Basketball Association

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