by Troy Sparks
WAUWATOSA – With the ongoing NBA lockout, you may not see the Milwaukee Bucks
play for a while. There will be some pro basketball here,
You can bet that these pros will excite the crowd and be available to
fans. These players have a local connection to people who have seen
them play in high school and college.
The Milwaukee Blast is the newest pro basketball franchise of the
watered-down American Basketball Association. This is not your
grandfather’s original ABA and the stars that carried that league
before the ABA-NBA merger.
At Wisconsin Lutheran College, Sept. 17, the Blast held their last round
of tryouts for players who were trying to make the team. The Blast
had other tryouts and chose players from those rounds to make up part
of their roster.
About 40 players, including those already on the team, showcased their
talents in the tryouts, which ran from 9 a.m. until noon. The list
of who’s who competed for a handful of spots on a team that will
carry between 12 to 15 players.
New head coach Marc Mitchell is familiar with many of the guys who tried
out, going back to his days as the coach at Custer when their teams
played against his team in high school.
The City Conference lineup of Dupree Fletcher, Devin Irven and Wquinton
Smith (King), Deonte Tatum, Dejuante Wade, Brandon and Breon Allen
(Vincent) and Geo Riley (Marshall) gave it their all in trying to
impress Mitchell and the rest of his coaching staff.
Each player had to pay $150 to try out, which was non-refundable. The
ones who will make the team will feel that it was money well-spent.
And the man behind this operation is team owner/general manager Elzie
Flenard. As the man in charge, it was his vision to have a pro
basketball team in Milwaukee.
“I’ve always wanted to have a pro team,” he said. “It just happened
that I was living in Milwaukee at the time. Back when I was in
college in Carbondale, IL (Southern Illinois Univ.) . . . It’s
really just a thing of destiny and faith that I just happened to be
living (back) in Milwaukee. It was a natural choice.”
Flenard chose the Blast nickname for a reason. “We kind of incorporate
what you think about when you think about Milwaukee,” he said. “So
the Blast kind of has a double, almost a triple meaning; a blast,
meaning a cold blast. When you say Milwaukee, the thing that comes
to mind is how cold it is.
“The other part of it is that there are a lot of festivals in Milwaukee.
So at festivals you have a blast, like it’s fun; it’s exciting.
It has that double meaning, the festivals that you see in Milwaukee,
also the weather in Milwaukee.”
This is a franchise that will be here for the long term, said Flenard. It
will maintain team identity. “I think that at the end of the day,
fans are going to find that it’s a very fun and very exciting
experience,” he said. “The Milwaukee Blast is going to be here
for a while. We’re not going anywhere. It’s not my goal to fill
it up and sell it. It’s my goal to fill it up and have a
10-year-old kid remember when he came to the first Milwaukee Blast
game, he bought a hat. And as an adult, he still has that hat
because that’s the memory that will be created.”