Cyclones excelling on, off the court

By Donna Stephens Originally Published March 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 27, 2013 at 8:52 a.m.
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Brandon Kimbrough, 27, is CEO of the Conway Cyclones, an American Basketball Association team that is two seasons deep into its existence. The Cyclones have enjoyed postseason success both seasons, but Kimbrough is just as proud of what the club is accomplishing off the court through community activities.

The second season ended recently, a little prematurely, for Conway’s professional basketball team, but the Cyclones are already looking ahead.

They lost to Memphis in the first round of the American Basketball Association playoffs, 97-88, to finish 13-3.

But they returned to the playoffs after their debut run in 2011-12, which saw them win the South Central Division and reach the Elite Eight, and finished this regular season ranked 11th among the 85 ABA teams.

“The year as a whole was a great success,” said Brandon Kimbrough, 27, CEO of the organization. “To have the opportunity two seasons in a row is a good thing. We came in winning, built a great franchise and a great team, and we’re going to go into next season and do it all again, and next time come out on top.”

Kimbrough, who lives in Little Rock and played high school basketball at Little Rock Parkview, said the Cyclones are ahead of the schedule he envisioned when he started the team in 2011.

“Most definitely,” he said. “I was shocked as far as the team that we built, the caliber of players we have, to make it in the playoffs and get notoriety for our accomplishments across the league. Next year, we’ll have more additions and make it deeper in the playoffs.”

According to www.abalive.com, the original ABA was founded in 1967, competing with the well-established National Basketball Association until the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. The ABA was known for a free-wheeling style, including dunks and 3-point shots, and its red, white and blue basketball.

After serving two tours in Iraq with the Army National Guard, Kimbrough returned to Arkansas and

was struck by the basketball talent he saw in area recreation centers and pickup games.

“Ever since I was young, I’d see a lot of talented individuals who would go to college and be back home or maybe not go to college,” he said. “They were just overlooked. I thought it would be a good idea to bring in a professional ball club and make a platform for them.”

Thus, the Cyclones were born.

The 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 Easton of Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Herman Harris of Little Rock and Independence County College; Jason London of Little Rock and Henderson State University; James Manthe of Kansas City, Kan., and Life Champs College; Gavin McDaniel of Wynne and CBC; Rashod Moss of the Bahamas and UALR; Mykal Riley of Pine Bluff and Alabama; Andrew Silverman of Humphrey and Harding University; Daniel Watson of Little Rock and Arkansas Tech University; and Marcus White of Conway and CBC.

Kimbrough said Barnes, a 6-3 shooting guard, “displayed the best player performance in franchise history” by scoring 43 points in a single game.

“He is an all-around offensive threat,” he said. “His rare athleticism allows him to jump over even the tallest player on the court. He has the ability to dunk on any opponent standing between him and the basket.”

Davis, a 6-9 power forward/center, is the franchise player, Kimbrough said, averaging 24 points per game.

“His versatility allows him to score from behind the 3-point line, hit mid-range jump shots and dominate in the paint,” Kimbrough said. “His leadership role keeps team members on edge.”

Moss, a 6-8 power forward, “is good at collecting offensive and defensive rebounds,” Kimbrough said. “He also is a good post defender. Eason, a 6-10 center, is an immediate threat. His height and frame portray a great rebounder and cleanup player after teammates’ missed attempts.”

The roster will carry over to next season, but Kimbrough said the Cyclones will probably add a player or two. All the players have other jobs, and they’ll play together in a different summer league as well.

The Cyclones play at Hendrix College.

“We’re building crowds,” Kimbrough said. “It’s a

growing fan base as we get awareness out about us.”

He said he wanted to bring something different to Conway’s growing community, and the Cyclones have done that.

“We’re more than being about basketball,” he said. “We want to help build the community. That’s what this team is really focused on outside of basketball, to help out in the community.”

Harris said the team’s outreach efforts have included work with the Faulkner County Boys and Girls Club and the Ellen Smith Little Dribblers.

And there will be more to come.

None Donna Stephens can be reached at .

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