The San Antonio Spurs will no longer have a monopoly on local pro basketball fans now that the American Basketball League has come to town, bringing the Texas Surge. The American Basketball League is split up into two divisions: the Tropics and Lone Star Conferences — each having six teams. The Lone Star Conference encompasses San Antonio, Laredo, Corpus Christi, Sugarland, the Hill Country and the cleverly named Twin Cities, College Station/Bryan. The Tropics Conference hosts teams from Panama City, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Emerald Coast, Heartland and Miami. Having teams within a 500-mile radius allows for short road trips that can be completed within a day, eliminating hotel costs and plane tickets. This 12-team league is projected to grow by four more conferences by the
2014 season: New York City, Southern California, Midwest and Puerto
Rico. The addition of these 24 teams should make for an exciting league showdown. This year, to culminate the season, the top two teams from each conference will head down to Fort Lauderdale to compete in a Final Four-style tournament to decide which one is the league champion and winner of a $10,000 cash prize. In addition, each player earns a $3,000 monthly salary in a season. The ABL’s goal is to provide “affordable family entertainment and high quality professional basketball,” all of which was visible at the Texas Surge’s season opener at Boerne Champion High School gymnasium against the Hill Country’s Lone Star Law team on Jan. 20.
While former San Antonio College Coach Curtis McGlown and his Texas Surge did not walk away with the victory, there remain 23 more games in the season. If the team continues to play with the same intensity and passion, this should turn out to be a great season for the team and the Lone Star Conference. The ABL’s season runs from January through March, with all games played on Fridays and Sundays. The Texas Surge, owned by TS Investment Group LLC, calls the Palo Alto Community College gymnasium home court. Le Moure Stephens, executive director of the Lone Star Conference, say the players in this Texas conference “have an age range from 21 to 30, give or take a few. We have a couple of older guys out there, and a few young ones, too.” Regardless of the age of the players, the first game was entertaining and family friendly, with an entrance fee of $7 for adults ($5 for seniors, military, students, or those aged 12-16; children under 12 are free), and soda, pizza and candy, all of which made the quick-paced game more enjoyable. While some would saying the addition of another team to the already saturated sports market isn’t in San Antonio’s best interest, Debbie Walton with the Lone Star Law says, “We are tapping a different market from the other basketball leagues in town. The ABL follows FIBA rules, which are the same regulations played in the Olympics – it’s a more upbeat game”. For those of you who might not know exactly what the difference between NBA and FIBA is, let me try to clear it up as quickly as possible
FIBA has four 10-minute periods, a two-minute break between quarters set aside for the 15-minute halftime, smaller court dimensions (3 feet, 2 inches by 9 feet, 5 inches), a five foul limit and two referees. Each team is allowed a full timeout in the first three periods and two in the fourth, which can only be called by the coaches. There are only 12 legal jersey numbers (4 through 15), and closely guarding a player with the ball for five seconds is legal. Walton adds, “We are doing our part to build a strong sense of community within our league. Our players and coaches are approachable and want to interact with their fans, along with their community. The teams are working with several Boys and Girls Clubs in the area, inviting them out as special guests to many of our games. The players are also working on basketball clinics with Roy Maas Youth Alternatives.” At the first game it was visible to spectators that the players definitely put fans first. Several younger fans were tapping the backs of the Texas Surge players during the game just to say “hello.” The young fans were not scolded or pushed back to their seats, but were greeted with wide smiles and grateful responses. That in itself was a moment that personified what the league is all about.
The Texas Surge had its first home game Jan. 27 at the Palo Alto Community College gymnasium. For more information on the ABL or the Texas Surge, visit their website at www.abl-hoops.com.