Professional basketball has made it's way to Orange County in the form of the Novastars, a Mission Viejo-based team playing its inaugural season in the American Basketball Association.
After starting as a Los Angeles team owner, coach and Mission Viejo resident Al Smith relocated the Novastars to Orange County this year, playing home games at Saddleback College. The team will be soon relocating to the North Orange County area to play the 2nd half of this season's games.
Novastars co-owners Al Smith and Glenn Wilkerson, from left, coach their semi-pro basketball team during a workout at Saddleback College recently.
CHRISTINE COTTER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
•1 Kevyn White PG, SG 6-1 Inglewood, CA
•3 Kieondre Arkwright PG, SG 6-2, Flint, MI*
•5 Kirpatrick McCauley F 6-8 Grand Rapids, MI*
•7 Ron Houston G 6-3 Inglewood, CA*
•10 Pete DeCasas SG 6-4 Mission Viejo, CA
•12 Tyrell Chandler G, SF 6-8 New York, NY*
•22 Antwon Tanner PG, SG 5-9 Chicago, IL
•23 Deon Marcus F, C 6-9 Compton, CA
•24 Darius McGee SF 6-6 Riverside, CA
•32 Cataldo Alessi F 6-5 Laguna Beach, CA
•33 Maurice McGee F 6-9 Riverside, CA
•42 Imani Mackie SF, PF 6-8 Inglewood, CA
*There are three players without numbers because this week was their first practice with the team
"Looking at the talent in Orange County, there's a lot of it here," said Smith. "They don't get the same exposure as the kids in L.A. because of the market. Our goal was to bring something professional to Orange County that gives the average athlete an opportunity here, locally."
The Novastars' inaugural season was in 2004, competing then in the Drew League – which Smith described as more of a recreational summer league for professionals to stay in playing shape. The team joined the ABA in April.
According to Smith, the ABA allows his players to get more exposure from scouts, which gives them a higher chance of making the next level, whether that be the National Basketball Association or playing overseas.
"When I saw that these players were still falling short and not getting jobs (as part of the Drew League), it was my duty to try to help these guys get that exposure," Smith said of the decision to join the ABA.
A deal was struck by Smith's assistant coach, Glenn Wilkinson, and Saddleback College in which the money paid to use the facility goes directly into supporting the college's women's basketball team.
Not only that, the Novastars also work with various nonprofit organizations around Orange County, including We Rock Kids, the Bordeaux Community Center in Santa Ana and the I Believe In Miracles Foundation, based in Mission Viejo.
"Anything that we put out, whether it's paying for services or just helping support, we try to build and enrich the community with the funds," Smith said. "Our upcoming game on Sunday ...we'll also have a toy drive and food drive."
The Novastars' current 10-man roster consists of players from the Los Angeles area, Chicago, New York and a Capistrano Valley High graduate, Pete DeCasas.
The team plays a 24-game schedule that runs through March, with playoffs following. The Novastars are 2-5 and trying to prove themselves as the new team in town in the SoCal Division of the ABA.
For more, visit novastarbasketball.com.