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ABA comes to Southern Crescent

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

Levi Williams has always loved basketball.

However, the former Savannah State player never dreamed of going one-on-one with Lebron James or Kobe Bryant.

Instead, Williams always wanted to work behind the scenes as a team owner, president or general manager.

Now, the man with the engineering degree from the college in Georgia is about to realize his goal.

Williams is the owner of the South Metro Prowl, an expansion basketball team in the ABA.

The ABÅ is a minor-league basketball organization best known for its red, white and blue basketball and unique rule book.

The Prowls' owner choose the name because of his fascination with Lions.

"I don't know what it is, but I have always been interested in lions," he said. "A lion is the king of the jungle and we want to be king of the court."

The Prowl are expected to begin their first season in the league this year. Williams is negotiating with one of the local high schools in Henry County, but he doesn't want to release any information about where the home games will be played until everything is finalized.

Teams in the ABA play a 30-game schedule from December 1 to March 30 with the playoffs running from March through April.

Williams promises his team will be fan friendly and an economical way to see quality basketball.

"We don't want people to forget about the Hawks or the NBA," he said. "We just think we have something to offer, too."

Tickets aren't expected to cost more than $5 and there will be plenty to keep fans entertained between quarters and at halftime.

Williams began his post-playing basketball journey as a coach and teacher, but quickly realized he wanted more out of life.

"About three years ago, I started to get into the business side of sports by holding camps in Florida," he said. "I have always enjoyed being around that side. I began to develop a business plan to buy a team."

William's' originally wanted to put his new franchise in Savannah, but decided to locate it in the metro Atlanta area.

For Williams, buying the ABA franchise is part of his philosophy about what he wants out of life.

"When you stop dreaming," he said, "you start dying."

Williams hasn't released his roster yet, but he says once he does, local basketball fans should be familiar with members of the team.

The new owner expects to sign players who played high school ball in the area and some former college basketball players from Clayton State.

"There are a lot of great players out there who have gone unnoticed, or not scouted, so I wanted this to be the launching point for some of those players who had great numbers and great stats, but maybe they went to a smaller school. We want to help them get noticed with a team overseas, and maybe if everything works out have the chance to play in the NBA," he said.

The original ABA began in 1967 with franchises such as the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets, three teams which later joined the NBA.

Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J, is a former ABA great.

The league was the first to introduce the 3-point shot and legalize the slam dunk. The first ABA franchises played from 1967 to 1975.

After a 25 year absence, Dick Tinkham and Joe Newman brought the league back as a minor-league operation.

Now, the ABA is the largest sports league ever with 60 teams now vying for a league title.

"I want the local community to be excited about this," he said. "I want fans in this area to see a quality product for three, four or five bucks," he said. "We are going to have contests between quarters, it should be exciting."

The Prowl should have some natural rivals already.

Franchises from Charlotte, Atlanta, College Park, Nashville, Knoxville, Mississippi, Columbus, Orlando, and the Bahamas are expected to play in the Prides' division .

William's wife LaToya will serve as Director of Public Relations for the Pride.

Several other members of the franchise are already in place including, Mary Williams, who will serve as Director of Human Resources, and Ruben Perez, who has been named the director of sports communications.

Tasha Reid has been named the public address announcer, Masha Rainey, the choreographers for the dance team, and Terry Burchett, the play-by-play announcer for the webcast games.

Information about the Prowl can be found at www.prowlbasketball.com