Jacksonville Giants Sweep in Successful Opening Weekend
Averaging an eye-popping 175 points per game in their first two outings, the Jacksonville Giants quickly moved into the 18th spot in the American Basketball Association’s (ABA) weekly Power Rankings. The Southeast Texas Mavericks, the ABA’s defending champions, held onto the No. 1 ranking of the league’s top twenty-four teams.
The Power Rankings determine the two dozen teams that will eventually qualify for the ABA playoffs in March. The eight highest-ranked teams will receive a first round bye in the playoffs and those ranked 9 through 16 in the final rankings will host first-round games.
After demolishing an undermanned San Francisco Rumble quintet at Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday night by a score of 182-125, the Giants continued where they left off the previous evening by scoring the first nineteen points against visiting Team Haiti Relief on Sunday en route to a lopsided 168-84 victory.
During Sunday’s blowout, the Giants jumped out to 28-2 lead and twice built leads of 88 points in the waning minutes of the game following a spectacular pass from Dwayne Foreman to a driving Sherod “Hot Rod” Harris at the 2:10 mark, and an authoritative slam dunk by 6’9” Alvin Jefferson a few moments later.
While several thousand turned out for the team’s inaugural game on Saturday, a much smaller crowd was on hand yesterday. Cassandra Curry-Williams, an usher at the arena, estimated yesterday’s crowd at slightly more than a thousand. “It’s not nearly as large as the crowd we had last night,” she said, “but everybody seems to be enjoying the game.”
“I’m not a huge basketball fan, but this was really entertaining,” said Michael L. Brown, a Navy veteran and one of those who attended both games over the weekend. “Everybody should come out and support this team. You’re not going to get a better night’s entertainment for the price.”
The spirited and energetic play of Jacksonville native Antonio Lawrence, a 6’5” small forward who played a year at San Jose State University, was “worth the price of admission,” gushed another fan on Saturday.
If the first two games are any indication, fans will enjoy a fast-paced, if not frenzied, style of basketball — an explosive team that relentlessly presses up and down the court from the opening tip-off until the final buzzer.
As both San Francisco and Team Haiti learned this past weekend, getting the ball past mid-court can be a harrowing experience for opponents, especially given the ABA’s seven-second backcourt rule.
Loaded with athleticism while boasting a couple of outstanding 3-point scorers and a legitimate big man in 7-footer Jermaine Bell, whose soft baby hooks and baseline jumpers delighted fans over the weekend, the Giants will almost certainly be in the hunt when the post-season begins.
“Wow,” said Joe Newman, the ABA’s co-founder and CEO after learning of Jacksonville’s annihilation of the San Francisco Rumble on Saturday. “An amazing debut for the Jacksonville Giants. The San Francisco Rumble has been a final eight team for three years and are considered one of the strongest teams on the West Coast.”
Coach Kevin Waters and the team deserve a lot credit for a game that was one of the highest scoring in the league’s history, added Newman.
The next home game for the Giants (2-0) will be on Sunday at 7 p.m. when they host the Savannah Storm at Veterans Memorial Arena.