CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Professional basketball has made its return to the Mountain State and the Kanawha Valley after decades.
The new men’s basketball team, called the West Virginia Grind, met for a news conference at the Marriot in Charleston Wednesday to announce its inaugural season lineup.
The Grind makes the 50th team named in The Basketball League, which has 46 leagues in the U.S and three in Canada.
The assistant general manager for the team, Chris Janey, said that it gives local and in-state basketball players an opportunity to play on a professional level right at home.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for us to be able to help people go to the next level, whatever they want to do, we want to use this as a vehicle for them to get to where they want to be,” said Janey.
Along with having native players to West Virginia, the team is comprised of out-of-state players, as well.
At Wednesday’s conference, a public announcer for the team, Jim Strawn, reminisced on past players that helped give West Virginia a name in professional basketball, such as the first African American basketball player to play in the NBA, Earl Lloyd, as well as other noteworthy names like Jerry West and Hal Greer. He added that the sport had become a rich tradition in the state and the Kanawha Valley, and that another professional team was overdue in the area.
“It has been decades since we’ve had pro-basketball in the valley, and this Kanawha Valley deserves pro-basketball,” Strawn announced Thursday.
However, the general manager for the Grind, Stephanie Casey, said that basketball is only about half of what the team will be doing, as its other focus will be centered around community outreach and a major youth initiative.
She said the team expects to travel around to different local elementary schools, helping to motivate students in pursuing a professional career in basketball within their home state.
“We want to be role-models, we want to be mentors for the little kids that are in the neighborhoods and in the cities, and in the areas of the Kanawha Valley, that they can see, ‘hey, we have guys that have stayed here, played over seas, played in college, and now there is a platform for them to play on a professional level here in their own home town,” Casey said.
The team will be playing with competing teams throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, among other surrounding states, and they will play their home games at West Virginia State University.
After being administered into the league in January of this year, the Grind played their fist game last weekend in Michigan, and they plan to play their first home game on April 1 against the Glass City Wranglers. This season they will play a total of 24 games and 12 home games.
One of the players for the new team, Jarin Hilson, is a Marion County native who played high school basketball in Fairmont and college basketball in Wheeling. He said he is grateful to be a part of the local team.
“To actually be on a pro-team and to be a West Virginia native, I feel like it’s a true blessing,” Hilson said.
The Grind will hold a Meet the Team at The Zone in Cross Lanes next Friday at 7 p.m.