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Basketball is Back in Jacksonville and Rotary is Helping

Ten days ago, three teaser billboards were erected in high-traffic areas around town. At a press conference held this morning at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, they were explained in detail.

Jacksonville can now boast that it is home of the newest ABA Basketball franchise team in the country. Moments ago, it was announced that local attorney and entrepreneur, Ron Sholes, is bringing professional basketball back to Jacksonville in a big way! Holding up the familiar trademarked red, white and blue ball made famous by the league years ago, Sholes said, “We are enthusiastic about our efforts to deliver affordable and electrifying entertainment to the city, and to bring basketball back as well.”

In his opening address, Sholes remarked that the team (still unnamed) would play 15 home games in the arena and another 15 games out of town. The team is currently considering several potential area businesses as the team’s primary partner and depending on the terms of the partnership, this may include naming rights to the team. It was also mentioned that the team may even allow the fans to name the team if an agreement is not reached in the next week or so. Sholes said proudly, “Our first game will be right here in the Jacksonville Arena against the San Francisco Rumble, currently ranked third in the ABA power rankings. We plan to pack the house and win the game!”

When asked directly how “packing the house” might be achieved where other basketball teams had failed, Sholes explained, “One new approach we have taken is to form a partnership with the area Rotary Clubs to aid in our sales of premium seating. It is a win-win situation since this will sell seats and Rotary will receive charitable dollars to fund its area projects. The team will be focused on community outreach and youth programs and it already has several things in the works – Rotary can help make this happen.”

Each year Rotary District 6970 pours hundreds of thousands of dollars into local, national and worldwide charitable deeds. Rotary District Governor 6970, Cynde Covington, who is responsible for all 64 area Rotary Clubs said, “We could not be happier with this arrangement and are elated to have been asked to join Ron and his team in bringing affordable entertainment to Jacksonville. Nearly every dollar of charity monies Rotary receives from this partnership will go directly to area projects.”

Sholes also expressed that like with any other sports venture, the team will be looking for various corporate partners to team up with to make this all that it can be. With 15 games to be televised and played in the Arena, there should be excellent partnership opportunities available. More information can be found on the team’s website www.abajax.com under
sponsorships.

Those over 40 might remember the ABA as a stiff competitor of the NBA. After several years of operation, the NBA bought out its teams and contractually locked it out from reorganizing for 25 years. Local basketball favorite and former ABA player, Artis Gilmore, was one of the original players drafted from the ABA into the NBA. Now the league is back with over 60 teams worldwide.

Ron introduced Kevin Waters as the team’s head coach. Waters, a former Edward Waters Assistant Coach who left Jacksonville to assist in growing several other teams around the country, discussed a talented group of players that he has already been evaluating, including some from right here in Jacksonville. Waters predicted that based on his current group of talented hopefuls, his selections would make ABA Team Jacksonville an immediate contender for the league's crown. "This may include the team’s own version of the 'twin towers' playing down low," he remarked.

Nonetheless, the team will still have tryouts and they have encouraged all those who could “play” to come out and show them what you’ve got.

So what can we expect to see this year? Ron and Kevin said that we will see a great deal of fun, excitement and high-scoring basketball as they employ a run and gun type offense.

Sholes closed by saying: "It is going to be a fast-paced and thrilling game. And, it will all be played at the Jacksonville arena."

According to Arena staff, a lease agreement has been signed for 15 regular season games and all playoff games. The first game is scheduled for December 4, 2010. Additionally, the team is preparing to make a run at hosting the ABA’s All-Star game right here in Jacksonville, Florida.

One thing seems clear, it should be basketball in Jacksonville - like never before!

LISTEN TO JACKSONVILLE ABA TEAM OWNER, RON SHOLES, AS HE IS INTERVIEWED BY THE JACKSONVILLE OBSERVER'S OWN, RICHARD MILLER, TODAY AT 1:00 PM ON RADIO STATION AM-600 WBOB.

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