St. Louis hoops fans, you didn't get the Hornets and you lost the Swarm. The good news, however, is that somebody's still out there working for you. This week marks the debut of a new local semipro basketball franchise, the St. Louis SkyHawks, who will join the United States Basketball League.
The SkyHawks will play in the University of Missouri-St. Louis gym. They're coached by a pair of former NBA players and assistant coaches, Lionel Hollins and Lee Winfield. Winfield, a Sumner High School alum, also coached for the Swarm under Bernie Bickerstaff.
The team is still being winnowed down to a roster of 12, but the probables include such locals as former St. Louis University standout Justin Love; Mizzou standouts Clarence Gilbert, Jason Sutherland, Johnnie Parker and Tate Decker; Southern Illinois University-Carbondale players Monte Jenkins and Rolan Roberts; and Gateway Tech baller Marlow Currie.
As with most B-leagues, says Winfield, the purpose of the USBL is to give players who've fallen through the cracks professional conditioning, coaching and competition in the hope they'll be invited to an NBA tryout. "Most of these guys have aspirations of trying to get in the NBA," he says, "but, of course, they're still developing, and that's why they're here, to try and get someone interested in their skills and ability that might give them a shot in one of the NBA summer camps."
The USBL, which has been around since 1985, features a short and intense season. "We have a relatively short time to get into a team situation where we can play together as a team," says Winfield. "Our league has virtually two months to cram in 30 games and come out with a champion, so we have a lot of work to do in a short time."
The 10-team league includes another Missouri squad, the St. Joseph Express.