CCU alumni take center court as pro basketball comes to beachby Brian Druckenmiller
The American Basketball Association (ABA) has established an expansion team on the Grand Strand, and the first four players signed are former Coastal Carolina University basketball stars.
Led by Coach Chris Beard, former Texas Tech assistant coach, the South Carolina Warriors are ready to tip off their inaugural season later this month, playing home games at both the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and Socastee High School. As the first South Carolina team in the ABA, the Warriors will fill a gap in the league’s Mid-Atlantic Conference.
“With so many teams in Georgia and North Carolina,” said Joe Newman, ABA CEO, on the league’s official website, “we really were eager to have a team there [in South Carolina]…and Myrtle Beach is a really special city.”
Tryouts were held in September, and the 12-man roster has been filled. Chanticleer fans will be happy to know that the Warriors welcome familiar faces back to local hardwood: Joe Harris, Colin Stevens, Jack Leasure and Mario Edwards—all CCU alumni.
“It’s good to be home again,” says Harris, who has recently played professional ball in the British Basketball League. At CCU, Harris set the rebounding record for the Big South conference and was named to the All-Big South First Team twice. “It’s just like old times.”
Harris, Edwards and Leasure have all found success playing overseas. Leasure, who is seventh on the NCAA all-time 3-point scoring list and two-time Academic All-American, is excited about coming back to the beach to play professionally. “I feel a strong connection to the Myrtle Beach area,” said Leasure. “The opportunity to play with former Coastal teammates and for a great coach made it too good to pass up.”
Stevens, a walk-on CCU star who helped the team reach the conference championship during the 2005-06 campaign, has gone a different route in his basketball career. Instead of playing professionally, Stevens founded the Manzer Basketball Academy, a local camp that teaches the fundamentals of the sport to aspiring players of all ages. Now, as a member of the Warriors, he has been actively promoting the upcoming season and selling tickets—which, according to him, is going fairly well. “We need a good local fan base,” said Stevens. “The community embraces the team; this thing wouldn’t work without their support.”
Not only does this mean a great deal to the local basketball fan, but it makes the area a growing basketball town. With a Division I NCAA program and a professional team, the Grand Strand is a place where aspiring players can make a name for themselves.
“I think [the team] will help grow the basketball community as a whole,” said Leasure. “It will be a positive thing for basketball fans, for local kids who are learning the game and for players looking to reach their full potential.”
Watch these former Chanticleers become Warriors on opening night: Friday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. For ticket information, visit http://scwarriors.eventbrite.com.