Just one week after their first practice as an official ABA team the NY Lightning have their first game scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. against the Scranton Shamrocks at Johnson College in Pennsylvania. Both teams were recent additions to the ABA’s Northeast Division in early January as they continue their expansion.
The ABA has added eight teams in less than a month, which is a part of their plan to make the league the size of the NCAA. With teams in all regions of the country, and Mexico and soon Australia the ABA has indeed become a global league.
“We are going into our 18th season, but the great thing about our league is that it is very diversified ownership. There are 75% urban owners in the league which gives everyone an ability to own a team that has a desire to bring basketball to their area,” said ABA President Michale Watson. “The great thing about the ABA is right now we are at almost 120 teams and still growing every day. It is always great to see our expansion teams eager to play one another and this should be a great match up with two talented teams and owners,” he added.
After rigorous tryout sessions both the Lightning and Shamrocks are eager and ready to play their first game as ABA franchises. Coach Willie Negron of the NY Lightning is not only excited about this game but also about the future of NY Lightning basketball in the ABA.
“I want to give a wonderful shootout to the Scranton organization for even thinking of the Lightning for this wonderful home opener at Johnson College in PA. The excitement is overwhelming, I want to thank the ABA for allowing the NY Lightning to be a worthy competitor in the Northeast division,” said Coach Negron. “We are here to let everyone know that we are thankful to be in the Northeast Division and we are playing our preliminary season but we are looking forward to the 2018-2019 season,” he added.
The Scranton Shamrocks are a new team run by a youth basketball organization called Backcourt Hoops with over 500 kids in their program. Although the Shamrocks are new, head coach Kevin Clark is no stranger to basketball. A former college coach at Lackawanna Community College and a College basketball walk-on at St. Johns University in Queens New York (2008-11), coach Clark is excited for the opportunities this team will give younger players in their program.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the kids to see how basketball is such an important aspect in so many peoples lives and where it can take you if you work hard at it just like anything else,” said Coach Clark.
Although both teams were just added in early days of January, both sides were eager to get a game under their belt even with limited practice time with their current rosters. Both coaches feel very optimistic about their talent and how their team will react once it is game time.
“Northeast PA has a lot of outstanding talent, high school, college and guys who come to the area for college, so our entire roster has those Northeast PA roots which makes us more excited cause we are dealing with homegrown kids,” said Coach Clark. “It is funny our second practice is Saturday so we got this together and we have been working none stop to try and make this a good experience for the guys and there loving it. We have a system built in where our guys will be able to showcase their skills but within the means of a team offense which is exciting for us, and even after just one practice the guys were really receptive to that system,” he added.
With many of the Lightning players being former high school, and college basketball athletes Coach Negron feels they will need to adjust to the physicality and different rules of the pro setting. But he firmly believes in letting the players go out there and play their game.
“Whether you have practice once or twenty times you have to let the players play, so for me offensively there are simple things they need to do,” said coach Negron. “What’s a good shot? Shoot your shot, not the shot the defense gives you, shoot the shot that you know you’re capable of making, reset and relax, there is no pressure,” he added.
As coach Negro alluded to the pro setting is different from high school and college so to have a guy like Travis Conyers on his team with some ABA experience will be helpful. Travis is a point guard out of Jersey City who played at the well-known St. Anthony High School for legendary coach Bob Hurley.
“My ABA experience was great, you meet some great players, you play with great players, you go places you never been before, it helped me get a better perspective for the game,” said Conyers. “I’m a slasher, so I like to get to the rim, and I like to create for others too, I like to think of myself as a pure point. Basketball is basketball, so when you get on the court it is going to be free flowing, so you have to just play how you play,” he added.
With this being the first of many road games Coach Negron is very optimistic about how his team will handle the road atmosphere.
“My team will be ready to play, their excited, they’ll respond well. They know what is at stake, they know that they are playing for the legacy of two individuals; they’re playing for themselves as well. They are ready to go,” said Coach Negron “If they were scheduled to play today they would play today, so once the ball is tipped they’ll be ready to compete for the 48 minutes or overtime if needed,” he added.
Tip-off for tomorrow’s game is at 3:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on the I-95 Sports and Entertainment Network