The American Basketball Association (ABA) announced in early January that they would be expanding their Northeast Division by adding Brooklyn based team the New York Lightning. The Lightning held their first practice on Sunday January 14,2018 at the legendary Vincent T. Lombardi Field House on the Fordham University Campus.
Michale Watson president of the ABA is excited about the addition of the Lightning and owner Willie Negron to the Northeast Division and the potential they have. “We needed a team in the Brooklyn area, and we thought it would be great for him to head that new team there,” said Watson. “I think they’re going to give the teams that are already in that division another team to compete against and in the end be a contender for the playoffs,” he added.
The Lightning and their players are not out there just playing for themselves but playing to honor the memory of former coach Robert “Surrob” Negron and former Lightning player Paul “PJ” Flowers. Brother of Willie Negron, Robert was a fixture in many New York City basketball gyms; playgrounds, venues and his face can be seen on the practice jerseys on all the Lightning players.
“The Lightning program is about the Lightning and my late brother Surrob who passed away seven years ago,” said Negron. “One of the things, when I talked to Mr. Negron, is he wanted to build his team in honor of his brother, and I think that’s an amazing thing to do for someone,” said Watson.
One player who had the opportunity to be around the Lightning program when Robert and PJ were around is point guard Andre Martin. Martin who credits the Lightning and coach Negron for helping him get into college feels like they have something to play for.
“We have a reason to go hard to keep his legacy going as well as PJ,” said Martin. “ PJ used to play with us all the time. He’s like me been we’ve around Coach Negron for a long time, so when I heard that news I was devastated, so we have something to play for,” he added.
One thing is for sure the Lightning will be playing very hard not only for the legacies of their fallen brothers but because Coach Willie does not know any other way. The first practice for these young men was filled with many conditioning drills to prepare them for the up and down pace of the ABA.
Coaches mantra for the day was 99 and down because he wants his players to do their best to keep their rivals from hitting the century mark. He has paid close attention to the league and the Northeast Division, and he knows his team will have to be great on defense and late in games to win.
“It’s intense you know, you miss a free throw you have to hit the suicides, but I’m not going to lie it feels good,” said Martin. “As a player, you always need that, like he said it’s the fourth quarter you down two you at the line shooting two just finished running a fast break you have to suck it up,” he added.
“Coaching the game, I just love the defensive part, defense has always been the tradition of any sport, and if you play defense you’re going to win championships, and these guys deserve that,” said Coach Negron.