Majic to kick off WBA season tonight

Ever heard of the Gwinnett Majic? Outside of the coaches and players' friends and family, there's a good chance that the answer is no.

It's not like the team suffers from a talent deficiency after winning the World Basketball Association Exposure League (WBA) championship last season. It also isn't because the players aren't well known with a roster that includes former Berkmar standouts Adrien Borders and Wayne Arnold, as well as Dacula product B.J Puckett.

The teams' anonymity is connected to the problems many semi-professional sports teams face, that there seems to be an overall lack of fan interest. And with a lack of interest comes a lack of attendees.

Last season, it was hardly uncommon for the Majic -- whose opener is tonight at Berkmar -- to play games in front of crowds that seldom exceeded a hundred or so spectators.

While likely a sobering experience for the spotlight-seeking athlete, the players on this team didn't let vacant stands affect their play as they supported each other, winning the WBA championship via a thrilling buzzer-beating jump shot along the way.

Head coach David Akin's team somewhat like a summer league, in that the Majic are a sort of segue for players seeking to extend their careers beyond high school and college and aspire to playing basketball overseas.

A cohesive and talented bunch, this team unfortunately hasn't received the recognition befitting of their achievements.

But now with most of their key players from last season's championship squad back, the Majic hope to add another element to this season's agenda -- more fan support.

"We are going to take the show on the road this season," said Akin, a 1998 Berkmar grad. "Most of our games last year were played at Bogan Park."

The "on the road" plan refers to the team's branching out and playing more games at several of the area high schools, including Meadowcreek, Duluth, Parkview, South Gwinnett and Berkmar.

In addition to playing more games in the heart of the county, the Majic's plans feature several marketing strategies that they hope will garner more enthusiasm.

On most nights, Gwinnett County teachers, both public and private, firefighters, police officers and even children from the boys and girls clubs will be admitted into games free of charge.

Those marketing strategies don't guarantee an inevitable influx of fans to games. With most things, gaining attention and exposure often takes time. Just ask Borders.

A point guard who averaged 12 points per game last season, Borders has been working hard on his game to get the exposure he feels he deserves.

Now in his third season with the Majic, the high-flying guard has had brief stints in the ABA and CBA before finding a home with his newest team.

And even though he appreciates the camaraderie he has with his teammates and the management, Borders aspires to someday play professionally overseas.

"I'm very fortunate to be playing on a team right here in Gwinnett," Borders said. "But I am still kind of using this as a tunnel to get overseas."

In doing so, Borders said that he is getting interest from several teams across the waters, but in the meantime he attests that he will continue to give his all to the team that has given him a chance.

Like Borders, Puckett has a similar interest. Last season's most valuable player, he hopes to use his experience with the Majic as a tool to market himself as well as to keep in shape for when a team overseas comes calling. He averaged 20 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds a game last season.

Puckett, who recently re-signed with the team, has already suited up for several clubs in both Argentina and Mexico. But he enjoys playing for his hometown team, adding that the only missing component to the success has been fan support. He feels strongly that will not be the case this season.

"Last season was better than the previous season," he said. "This year I'm excited to see what happens."