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Elmira man helping to launch pro basketball team in Kitchener

Elmira's Leon Martin is helping to launch a pro basketball team in Kitchener
Brian Foster (Innosoft), Frank Schneider (Ball Construction), Cameron Ball (Ball Construction), NBL Commissioner David Magley, Leon Martin of Elmira, London Lightning team owner Vito Frijia, and Niagara River Lions team owner Richard Petko along with Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky celebrate the beginning of a new sports team in the region.[Submitted]
Brian Foster (Innosoft), Frank Schneider (Ball Construction), Cameron Ball (Ball Construction), NBL Commissioner David Magley, Leon Martin of Elmira, London Lightning team owner Vito Frijia, and Niagara River Lions team owner Richard Petko along with Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky celebrate the beginning of a new sports team in the region. [Submitted]
Joining Orangeville, Windsor, Niagara and London in the National Basketball League, the region has a new basketball team.

The team doesn’t have a name quite yet, and owners and NBL staff want your input. The league is holding a contest for those who have an idea or two for what the team should be called.

Elmira businessman Leon Martin, one of the owners of the new Kitchener basketball team, says the contest is all about bringing the community into the planning process for the new professional-level sports team.

“Anyone can email a name,” said Martin. “The winner gets two free season tickets. It is a team sport. Basketball is huge in Canada. We are the largest suppliers of basketball players in the NBA after the United States. There are plenty of professional-grade players in the area.”

Along with Ball Construction and Innosoft Canada, a tech firm in London and Kitchener, Martin is part owner of the new team. His involvement came about when chatting with friends involved in its creation.

“We had talked about it about three months ago, and I told him I was interested, but not in doing the whole thing,” he said. “Then two weeks ago, they emailed me and asked if I was still in and I said, ‘absolutely.’ I am in between careers right now, and this seems like it will be really fun.”

For Martin, basketball has always been a fun way to relax and bring kids together. He used to play years ago, and now, he wants to bring his love of the game to others.

“There is a lot of basketball around the whole region, so I am hoping to work with some minor basketball leagues in and around the area, get the players out there, work with them, talk to the kids in high schools and public schools. That is what I like to do and that is what I am hoping to do. Get some interest from the younger kids,” he said. “These players could be role models for the kids. That is what the commissioner asked of me, and I am on board. It is all about the community.”

The new team will give kids and families in Waterloo Region a chance to see professional sports right in their own backyards.

“A lot of kids can’t afford to go watch the NBA and cheer on the Raptors. It is close, it is going to be affordable and it is professional-level basketball. It is a cheaper sport than hockey to get the kids involved in. We also hope to get the community involved in the half time shows, on the court,” said Martin. “It is just to promote basketball and get the kids involved.”

Martin isn’t sure what his role in team management is going to be quite yet, but the planning stages are well on their way

“I want to get involved as much as I can. I will find out more when all the owners get together this week, and we can lay out what has to happen. We always like to work with the outside communities around Waterloo. I would love to get as many people as possible involved in basketball,” he said.

There are already teams in four cities in the NBL Central Division, and four in the Atlantic Division, but soon to be five. Organizers are also working on bringing a team to Cape Breton.

Owners and organizers hope the first tip-off for the new team will be on Dec. 26 against London.

“We want to start up a nice rivalry. There is good competition in London,” said Martin.

The league hasn’t made any concrete plans for where the team is going to play, or what colour jerseys they will wear on the court. All of that is going to come after the team name is chosen through the contest.

Anyone with team name ideas for the new Kitchener-Waterloo basketball team can email them to info@kwnbl.com.

For more information on the NBL, visit www.nblcanada.com. To stay up-to-date on the new team in Kitchener-Waterloo, keep an eye on www.kwnbl.com.

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