The United States Basketball Association, led by president and CEO Duane Allen Jenkins, has announced that its inaugural season will begin in April with the Augusta Raging River playing as one of the league's 14 teams.
The Raging River will be the second of its kind in Augusta. The Augusta Groove, of the Premier Basketball League, will open its inaugural season in January and play 10 home games at Richmond Academy.
Jenkins said the Raging River plan to play their 16 home games at James Brown Arena.
"We've almost got our deal totally ironed out with (James Brown Arena general manager) Monty Jones Jr.," Jenkins said. "Obviously, we had to give up concessions, but I think they'll be fair."
Jones did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.
Instead of finding owners to purchase the team from the league, as was the case with the Augusta Groove's ownership group, the USBA will own and operate all 14 teams in the league.
"We're going to run things a little different," Jenkins said. "Most people don't know how to run a company let alone something as complex as a minor league basketball team."
Jenkins said Chuck Graham, a Richmond Academy graduate and former guard at Florida State, will serve as head coach for the new team. Graham worked locally as the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Augusta for two years and has served as an assistant basketball coach at Thomson High School for the past five years.
"I'm excited. It's a great opportunity for me, and I'm excited for Augusta," Graham said.
"I'll be looking for guys who have some experience. Right now it's pretty much wide open."
Tryouts will take place on March 7, 14 and 21, and players who make the team will be paid $350 per week.
Though the two minor league basketball teams will share the Augusta market, Jenkins said they won't directly compete because they'll play at different times of the year. The Groove's regular season begins Jan. 3 and ends March 27. The Raging River won't begin play until the first week of April in a regular season that will run through June.
"That's not a concern," Jenkins said. "We want the league to be a bridge from when the NBA season ends to when their summer camps begin."
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2009 USBA TEAMS
Atlanta Platinum, Birmingham Crusaders, Augusta Raging River , Chattanooga Royal, Huntsville Storm, Montgomery Generals, Nashville Thunder
Charleston Stars, Charlotte Blue Wave, Columbia Centurion, Jacksonville Admirals, Norfolk Blaze, Richmond Colonials, Savannah Seahawks