Former TSU hoops star hopes to be Stars hired gunner

Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 11:14pm

Josh Cooperwood can afford to be choosy about where he plays basketball.

The former Tennessee State star has played in more than half a dozen countries on three different continents and has developed a reputation as a scorer. That means he is in demand almost year-round.

What he cannot afford to do is play the game for free, which is why he looks forward to the start of the American Basketball Association’s 2009-10 season and the latest incarnation of the local franchise — the Music City Stars.

“Last year I stayed around for half a season and then went overseas because of the ownership,” Cooperwood said. “This year it looks like we have pretty good ownership.

“I think we can win the whole league. …I think we have a championship team and a championship coach. The organization …the owner is good, so I think this year we should win a championship.”

He left the Nashville Broncs, as the team was known last season, to play professionally in Kuwait. Several of his teammates made similar midseason moves, and after going 23-4 in the regular season the Broncs fell in the playoff semifinals.

Cooperwood returned for this season, along with a number of other players who have local ties as well as coach Jan van Breda Kolff, a former star and coach at Vanderbilt.

Both said they’re encouraged by the vision and the business cumen of new owner Tony Chase, who also purchased the Lexington-based Bluegrass Stallions and who is slated to become ABA commissioner on Jan. 1. Under Chase’s direction, the franchise was re-branded and the decision was made to return to Lipscomb’s Allen Arena, which was the team’s home floor when it was the Nashville Rhythm.

“The nucleus of our team is all back, and then we’ve added three or four new players as we’ve continued to try and upgrade our team,” van Breda Kolff said. “… Some play for the love of the game, some play because they want to get to the next level … and some play just for the love of being in a team atmosphere and doing the things teams need to do in order to try to win a championship.”

The Stars will open the season at the ABA Tip-Off Classic, Nov. 19-21 at Beaumont, Texas. The first of their 15 home games will be Dec. 11.

Tickets will cost $12 for individuals, $8 for senior citizens and children, and children under 2 will be admitted free. Prior to the start of the season the team will offer a two-for-one deal on single-game seats. Lipscomb students will be admitted free all season with a valid student ID.

Season tickets will sell for $150 but will be available in a buy-three-get-one-free package. A limited number of premium seating packages also will be available. For tickets visit the team's Web site.

“This is a market that has a population base that not only is used to having quality entertainment available to it, but it has come to expect it and always embraces it,” Chase said. “We want to reach out to the youth and create a family-friendly environment for people who cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars a night on family entertainment.”

For his part, Cooperwood, who scored 51 points in a 2008 ABA contest, expects nothing more than to be paid for his efforts.

“The ownership is totally different from the past ownership, so I think everything on the business and financial side will be OK,” he said. “As long as that happens, I think I’ll be here all season.

“I really didn’t like leaving last year, but at the same time the owner wasn’t handling his financial responsibilities, so for me and my family the best thing was for me to leave. I want to play all season here with the rest of the guys.”