By John Kovach
YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Swish basketball players and coach are optimistic that the team will succeed in its 2009-2010 exhibition season, and are calling on area fans to support the new American Basketball Association entry.
“I believe that we can succeed. We are all Youngstown and we represent Youngstown and I believe Youngstown State basketball fans can make an easy transition to support the Youngstown Swish,” said former YSU standout Dwight Holmes during a press conference Wednesday at the downtown Rosetta Stone Cafe.
Greg McDevitt, a former Windham High and Geneva College standout, also expressed confidence in the team’s ability to grow and thrive as a franchise.
“I think that it really will work. If you believe in something, I believe that it will work, even if it takes some time,” said McDevitt, who thinks fans will like the games because they will be enjoyable and inexpensive to attend.
“There is no other professional basketball in the area and money [ticket, parking and concession prices] will not be an issue, so we want to get families involved in the games.”
The press conference introduced the 12-player roster and announced the team’s eight-game exhibition schedule, which includes a “Four on the Floor” tournament at the Hubbard High gym on Jan. 23-24.
Ten of the 12 players on the roster are from the Valley or have area or regional ties, while the other two are from Southern Ohio and Michigan.
The Four on the Floor tournament, in which each team will play two games, will consist of the Swish, Cleveland Rockers, Akron Rise and Pittsburgh Phantoms, all ABA franchises.
All of the other Swish games will be on the road, two each at the Phantoms and Rockers and one at the Columbus Crush.
The Swish already held its opener last Saturday, winning a scrimmage over the Phantoms, 111-102, at the New Castle Y-Zone. The next game is Dec. 5 at the Phantoms.
Coach Bob Patton, who formerly coached the Youngstown Pride of the World Basketball League, believes the team will grow along with the ABA, and that the fans will love the game, players, different rules and the red-and-white ball.
“I think we are going to succeed,” said Patton, a Struthers native and former YSU basketball player, pointing to the ABA’s growth and league president Joe Newman’s emphasis on expansion.
“There are over 80 teams in the ABA. The league is growing bigger and faster than any other league of its kind in the U.S. Plus, the league is getting a TV contract [with the Versus Network].”
Other Swish players on hand Wednesday were Keith Wynn, Kevin Scott, Derrick Green and Bruce Smith, all from Youngstown; Brad Bowman-Mangie of Austintown, Craig Wellman of Brookfield, Glenn Owens of Warren and Devin Taylor of New Castle, Pa.
Unable to attend were Carl Richburg of Mason and Anthony Wafer of Ypsilanti, Mich.
Also in attendance were general manager and team owner Dave Stambul, a former YSU basketball player who purchased the ABA franchise for $25,000 and brought it to Youngstown; and assistant coach Dennis Simmons.
Patton said he was disappointed the Swish wasn’t able to begin its first official season this year as originally planned, and equally dismayed that the team wasn’t able to secure the Covelli Centre as its home arena.
“We tried our best to get a facility but we encountered terrible stumbling blocks. So we felt that we should be safe instead of sorry and [wait a year] and do it the right way and make sure that the product is a good product,” said Patton, who along with Stambul were hopeful at first of getting the Covelli Centre, but found that the team could not afford to pay the rental fees.
“The price was way too high to get dates. Although we were willing to spend the money, the costs were far greater than we anticipated,” said Patton.
Patton was asked if the Swish was priced out of the Covelli Centre, which is the home of the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League.
“I can’t say for certain [but] it doesn’t seem like they were too interested in having us there,” said Patton. But he said he believes “basketball and hockey could work together for the betterment of the community.”
Patton is not sure where the team will play its first official season of home games in 2010-11, but that, “We are going to try to work hard to get one place.”