published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
ABL Eagles to make Heartland home
By BARRY FOSTER
AVON PARK - A new professional sports franchise is coming to Highlands County.
To be called the Heartland Eagles, the team will be part of the fledgling American Basketball League.
Steve Haney, ABL Chief Executive Officer, said his vision in creating the alliance was to revisit the days where minor league basketball was a community oriented event.
In fact, Haney said, the idea will be for each of the teams to focus on their respective communities - from affordably priced tickets to players and staff living in and working with area clubs, groups and organizations.
Haney himself has a rich history in professional basketball, having served as a former agent and attorney to NBA Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson, as well as working with other superstars such as Dominique Wilkins and NBA All-Star Kenny Anderson
The ABL will start with a dozen teams split between Florida and Texas, playing a 24-game schedule and winding up with a Final Four-type tournament for the top two teams in each division.
What differentiates the ABL from other leagues are two major things: It will play by FIBA international rules, and it will serve as a feeder league for European leagues.
Although there have been no players announced for the Heartland Eagles franchise, they will have some super-star guidance.
Former NBA star Wayne Monte "Tree" Rollins will be the head coach.
Rollins himself is a product of central Florida, having been born in Winter Haven.
The seven foot tall Rollins played 18 seasons in the National Basketball Association for teams including the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic.
In addition to serving as coach of a number of semi-pro teams, Rollins also served as both assistant coach and backup center for the Orlando Magic during the 1994-95 season
He is expected to be at South Florida State College this morning with other league principals to make the announcement and answer questions.
The Eagles will be based out of SFSC, both practicing and playing their home games at the Panther Gym.
Also in the ABL's Florida division will be the Emerald Coast Knights, the Fort Lauderdale Sharks, the Davie Stars, the Panama City Breeze and the West Palm Beach Piranhas.
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