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Published: Tuesday, 12/19/2006

Ice gets new beginning as Knights Team scheduled to play at local schools

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Ben Williams is determined to make Toledo a fixture in the American Basketball Association.

The former Scott High School coach is behind a push to have a Toledo-based team playing next month in the ABA, which is a semi-professional basketball league.

Williams was involved with the Toledo Ice - a team recently dismantled by the ABA after suspending its owner from the league for not meeting "any of the conditions of the ABA." The negative publicity associated with the Ice, which lost 191-66 to the Detroit Panthers in its only game played during the first half of the 2006-07 season, has put Williams on a crusade to have a team in place in January to play out the second half of the Ice's schedule.

However, the Toledo-based team will not be recognized as the Ice. After discussing potential names, a decision was made to call the team the Toledo Royal Knights. The Knights, who have plans in place to play 13 home games and eight road games, are scheduled to play their first game on Jan. 13.

"We're going to do everything we can to make it happen," Williams said. "We're going to play Jan. 13."

The Ice's existence in 1 1/2 seasons in Toledo was marred by financial troubles where coaches, players, and other employees were not compensated. A financial plan is in place for the Knights to avoid some of the pitfalls that plagued the Ice.

Ed Blankenship, a local accountant, who is volunteering his services as the Knight's chief financial officer, has a budget in place for approximately $107,000, or the total cost expected to cover all the expenses for the Knights' 21-game season. In order to keep the expenses low, only the players and coaches will be paid, and everyone else associated with the team will serve in a volunteer capacity, according to Blankenship.

"We're trying to keep expenses to a minimum," Blankenship said.

Nearly $60,000 of the budget will go toward players' salaries. The Knights, who played part of the 2005-06 season at SeaGate Centre before finishing out the year at Owens Community College, will play their home games this season at various local high school gyms. Libbey, Scott, Central Catholic, Waite, Northview, Southview, and Springfield will host home games for the Knights.

Blankenship said scheduling home games at some of the area high schools requires only about "a third of the cost" it would cost to play at other area venues like the SeaGate Centre.

"Hopefully we'll be able to get this thing up and off the ground," Blankenship said. "I think it's a good thing for Toledo."

The idea to schedule home games at various schools throughout the Toledo area is also expected to help self-promote the Knights and the ABA.

"[Playing in high schools] will involve more people within the community," Williams said. "The SeaGate is not a typical place for people to go see games. We're really pleased with how the high schools have opened up their gyms for us, especially at this time of the year. I think we'll have a good fan base."

Williams added: "It's a team for the whole area. That's the way it should be."

Nevertheless, Blankenship and Williams understand the team's fate will depend on its financial figures. Knights officials are currently in the process of reaching out to area businesses for financial support to support the team for half a season.

"I can't say all the money is already there, but some of it is," Blankenship said.

Albert McCluster III, who served as the Ice's public relations and marketing director, is involved with the Knights in the same role. However, he believes this new team has a better chance of making it based upon the leadership and approach.

"We've got to concentrate on getting a product out on the court," McCluster said. "We're goal-oriented to establish this team. We know you have to crawl before you can walk."

The names of the Knights players and coaches are expected to be made public on Jan. 6. They will tip off their season against the Buffalo Silverbacks at Libbey High a week later.

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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