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Conway Cyclones start new seasonPublished December 19, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
CONWAY — Things have changed a bit since Brandon Kimbrough started the Cyclones, Conway’s professional basketball team, in 2011.
The Cyclones have just started their third season in the American Basketball Association. At press time, they were 0-1 after a 5-point loss in the season opener to the North Dallas Vandals.
They are aiming for a third consecutive trip to the ABA playoffs after winning the South Central Division and reaching the Elite Eight in 2012 and finishing 13-3 last season with a loss to Memphis in the first round of the playoffs.
And they’ll do so with their CEO, Kimbrough, as a new college graduate.
“I’ve been going to school three years straight, and it feels great,” said Kimbrough, 28, who received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree Dec. 14 at the University of Central Arkansas’ commencement. “The Cyclones will be my job, and I’ll have a few other business ventures I’ll take on at the end of 2014.”
The team’s second game, with the Fort Smith Firebirds, was postponed because of the recent ice storm. The Cyclones will play the Dallas Impact at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Hendrix College’s Wellness and Athletic Center. According to the Cyclones’ Facebook page, “a certain guest from the North Pole” will also be in attendance.
The Cyclones’ next home game is scheduled for Jan. 24 against the Japan Gymrats.
“We have a nice fan base now,” Kimbrough said, looking back over the club’s growth. “At the first game this season, we had a few hundred people there, and for the next game, we’re expecting the same.
“And we have a few new players that bring a lot of energy and a new style of play to enhance the team’s performance. We expect to go further into the playoffs and have the city of Conway supporting us and behind us the whole way.”
Kimbrough, who played high school basketball at Little Rock Parkview, served two tours in Iraq with the Army National Guard before returning to school. He was struck by the basketball talent he saw in area rec centers and pickup games and came up with the idea of starting a professional team to take advantage of that talent.
The 2013-14 team, coached by Dedrick Harris of Jacksonville, includes Kelsey Alexander of Pine Bluff, who played for Dallas Christian College; Ryan Barnes of Fort Smith and Central Baptist College; Julian Bassett of Sherwood and Philander Smith College; Tony Briggs of Fort Smith and Arkansas Baptist College; Tyrone Davis of Tupelo, Miss., and Coahoma College; Darius Eason of Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Herman Harris of Little Rock and Independence County College; Danny McCall of Little Rock and UALR; Gavin McDaniel of Wynne and CBC; Charles Moore of St. Louis and Tennessee Tech; Rashod Moss of the Bahamas and UALR; Don Riley of Pine Bluff and the University of Arkansas at Monticello; and Daniel Watson of Little Rock and Arkansas Tech. Most are back from last season.
“One of our guys from last year went overseas, and a few moved out of state,” Kimbrough said. “Other than that, they would have played again.”
The Cyclones have a 12-man game roster and carry 18 to 20 for practice purposes. Most play together year-round.
“They are in tune with one another,” Kimbrough said. “They know how to play.”
Staff is another difference this season. Justin Phillips, who will graduate with his business degree from UCA in the spring, has moved from intern to vice president of marketing. Several other UCA business students serve as interns this season. They are making the team’s presence known around Conway.
But the Cyclones aren’t just about basketball. Their outreach activities include a benefit for Bethlehem House, Conway’s homeless shelter, as well as distributing free tickets for Conway’s elementary schools. The Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County has also been a beneficiary.
Kimbrough said his UCA business classes had augmented his philosophy of team ownership.
“I’ve always had the creative and entrepreneurial mindset to do something different,” he said. “And I’ve learned the business terms and lingo and those aspects, so it’s a combination.
“Now what I’m trying to do is create something different, bring something different and something special to this organization and all around.”
Game tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for students and children.
For more information, visit conwaycyclones.com.