Windsor Express basketball team vows to succeed
The president and CEO of Windsor’s new professional basketball team, the Windsor Express, promised Wednesday the team would not fail like others before it.
"This will be the NBA of Canada," Dartis Willis proclaimed.
Willis said he and his ownership group, primarily from Detroit, have spent a year doing their due diligence in preparation of joining the National Basketball League of Canada this fall.
Willis said he has personally met with 75 community groups in an effort to connect with Windsor-Essex.
"We really want to be a part of the community and engage the community," Willis said.
Willis said Windsor "stands to be a better market than any other city in the league" because of its basketball foundation, proximity to the U.S. and size of potential audience.
"The foundation of basketball is just as strong here as it is in the U.S.," he said, comparing Windsor to Detroit.
Willis said at least three local players are being recruited to play for the team. All of them, he said, are former Windsor Lancers, whose head coach Chris Oliver attended the media conference.
Willis said he wants his players to be part of the community, go to school and get a degree — a second one, if they have already graduated.
Willis called it "holistic player development."
St. Clair College also sent a representative from its athletic department to the media conference, which kicked off with a dance troupe.
Several members of the basketball community were on hand; from former W.D. Lowe head coach Gerry Brumpton to long-time referee Paul Carter to former college All-Canadian Jimmy Parsons and 7-foot Richard Shaw, a former Sandwich high school star and scholarship player at Marquette University.
Not many other details were announced Wednesday.
Willis confirmed what CBC News was first to report; the team will be called the Windsor Express.
Willis said the name is partially a nod to the Underground Railroad. He said it is also a reference to Windsor’s old rail yards on the banks of the Detroit River.
Willis did not name a head coach Wednesday.
"Maybe there will be another press conference for that," he said.
Details of a venue are still in the works.
Mayor Eddie Francis, whom Willis called "a point guard" in the process, said the WFCU Centre is the "frontrunner."