News Local/State

Fmr. Illini Voice Now Manages C-U’s New Minor League Basketball Team

basketball player shooting a basket

Forward Aaron Weaver at a practice session of the Champaign Swarm, held Wednesday, Jan. 6th at the Leonard Rec Center in Champaign. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media


Number one it’s a good basketball community. We certainly are not trying to compete with the university or with Parkland or the high schools we want to be part of the local basketball community I think that’s one reason. And the other reason was with the league as it is right now we have six teams from a geographical standpoint. It was good because it was close to Bloomington.

That’s where the Bloomington flex is actually part of this league now.

That’s exactly correct. So we started working on locations in the state that were fairly close to drive time. What happens with a lot of these minor leagues if you get your team locations so far apart you get eaten up with travel expenses. But this is what they call in basketball circles a bust league. We will drive to our games and there are plans right now to expand the league maybe to an additional six teams next year.

When your talk is for game attendance What do you need for the team to break even to make money right now.

Ed Schumer is more concerned about the actual product that’s on the floor. At some point in his model once we establish good game operations promotions except for a then we will aggressively go after fans. But his point was if you have a heavy marketing campaign and a lot of free first game ticket sales and the performance of the game and the operations are not good that becomes a detriment. Well tell me a little bit about the team that you just feel that most of these players I guess in the last month or so we started practice January second all of our players have played college ball at varying degrees. We’ve had some guys in our camp that have actually played pro ball we had one player that I picked up in Indianapolis last Friday a name Rashard McGill he was actually playing in China. About a year ago and he got home because of some illness in the family. The model of our league is really developmentally . We want to take the young players who still have the basketball skill sets and have a desire to move up their career and so if we lose we being the league itself. I lose a lot of players from the other teams will be very happy because now we know we’ve given them a foundation to advance their careers and that’s what the league is about and tell me a little bit just a thumbnail sketch of your coach. Chris Daly Eleazar coach Chris is originally from Chicago I went to school in Chicago now lives in Rockford. Chris has a long professional coaching background he was a coach of the year for one year but he coached several years in the C B A which is the Continental Basketball Association. He has coached in Italy overseas. Chris is almost worth the five dollar ticket to come and watch our practice. He’s very colorful but a very very solid and good basketball mind.

Good coach I don’t know if you’ve ever done this before. Manage the team.

My breath you know I’ve been involved in basketball from a media broadcast standpoint but never have managed a team it’s been a great very enjoyable very hectic five months we’ve got a great staff and we’re very excited to be able to bring to champagne Urbana the very first pro basketball team ever. There’s been pro-basketball plated champagne but as far as a local team that’s never been done in history. So we’re excited about that.

The Champaign Swarm, a new minor league professional basketball team makes its debut Sunday afternoon at 3 PM at the Parkland College Dodds Athletic Center. The Swarm is part of the new Midwest Professional Basketball Association – founded by St. Louis businessman Ed Schumer. Former Illini P-A announcer Jim Sheppard is a league official and also general manager of the Champaign Swarm. He talked about the new team with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows.

UPDATE: The Champaign Swarm won their inaugural game on Sunday, January 11th, beating the St. Louis RiverSharks, 113-100.