Army National Guard veteran and senior Brandon Kimbrough returned home from two tours in Iraq to establish a semi-professional basketball team in Conway, the Conway Cyclones.
The Cyclones began play in the 2011-2012 season under the American Basketball Association (ABA) banner. The current ABA organization is not affiliated with the former ABA that merged with the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1976.
Game rules are similar to the NBA, except a player who has six fouls can remain in the game and a 3-D rule, which gives teams an extra point on two-point and three-point shots. Further explanations of the rules can be found on the team’s website, conwaycyclones.com.
The inaugural season proved a bright future for the team when in finished in the top eight of the playoffs. The team ranked 19th in the country, while winning 11 games and losing seven during the season.
The Cyclones play home games at Grove Gymnasium at Hendrix College and are in the South Central Division.
The schedule consists of six home games and six away games and the roster is made up of players from Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas.
The Cyclones play teams within their division and around the world. This year, a team from Japan, the Japan Gymrats, will come to play the Cyclones on Jan. 24.
Kimbrough, team CEO, said he has wanted to start a basketball franchise for several years.
“This is something I wanted to do since I was in high school,” he said. “I wanted to bring something to Conway that could bring a different level of sports.”
Kimbrough said he saw a lot of individuals that did not get into the NBA and saw local talent in recreation centers. He said he wanted to create something players could be a part of.
According to the Cyclones’ website, “this team was created for Conway to assist in boosting the economy and to bring professional sports to a rapidly developing city.”
The team is involved in outreach programs within the community. One of the programs the team does is “Coats for Kids,” which provides coats for children in need for the fall and winter months. Other programs include reading to classes, back-to-school drives, college internship programs for marketing and working with the Ellen Smith Little Dribblers, which is an elementary school team. The team also hosts a military appreciation night.
Senior Justin Phillips, vice president of marketing for the team, said he got his position through career services.
“Last year, around this time, career services posted an opening for an intern,” he said. “I interviewed and now I’m here.”
Phillips helps schedule talent for halftime entertainment and the national anthem to reaching out to schools and doing assemblies.
The Cyclones opened the season Saturday with a loss to the North Dallas Vandals.
The Cyclones return home for a game against the Dallas Impact on Dec. 21. Tickets for the game are $8 for adults and $4 for children.