Round One at the 2016 ABA National Championship!

Round One at the 2016 ABA National Championship!

The Jacksonville Giants will make their sixth straight ABA Finals appearance on Monday, April 4th, in Laredo Texas. The game is a single elimination “play-in game” for an opportunity to play in the ABA Final Four. The Giants, who finished the season ranked fourth in the nation, will take on a very tough Texas Red Wolves team. If Jacksonville defeats Texas they will play in the ABA Final Four, which is also a single elimination game. A win in the Final Four will put the Giants in a best of three ABA National Championship game which will take place the second week of April.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to play in the finals,” said Giants Head Coach Kevin Waters, whose team is trying to win their third ABA National Championship in the franchise’s sixth year of operation.

This season’s ABA tournament is not like others in the past. All eight teams competing in the tournament have legitimate chances to win the 2015-16 National Championship. Throughout the 2015-16 season, many teams have held the number one spot and the power rankings showed constant shifting each week.

“This is the best ABA tournament in years,” said Assistant Coach Jerry Williams. “The ABA has done a great job putting together all these high-quality teams. Any team can win the championship this year.”

The Texas Red Wolves have had a very successful postseason and look to play the spoiler role versus Jacksonville. The Red Wolves had impressive playoff wins over, 2015 Southwest Division Champion, Austin Boom 128-110 and also knocked off the Texas Fuel 122-113. Jacksonville and the Red Wolves have played two common opponents this season, the Jackson Showboats and the Texas Sky Riders. Giants defeated Jackson on January 9th and 10th during the regular season with scores of 140-98 and 134-78. While the Red Wolves fell to Jackson 117-98 on March 5th. The Red Wolves won two out of four games against the Texas Sky Riders while the Giants defeated the Sky Riders 109-93 on February 27.

“They (Red Wolves) had a couple of upsets in the Divisional Tournament to make it to the ABA Finals,” said Waters. “They are a well-balanced team and also present some problems in the paint area with their height.”

Jacksonville has the same group of core players from the regular season leading the team to the championship. Maurice Mickens and Jerrod Tucker will lead the outside shooting while Jermaine Bell and Elijah Smith assist on the inside. Mickens, an ABA All-Star, proved to be a dominate force for the Giants this season as a three-point scoring machine. As a dynamic point guard, Mickens scored a career-high of 61 points in the regular season finale versus Fayetteville. Smith and last season’s ABA MVP, Jermaine Bell, have shut down opposing defenses with their physical inside play throughout the season. Jacksonville’s offensive strategy was very versatile this season as the team uses a fast tempo approach that tires opposing defenders.

“It’s win or go home,” said Williams. “We need to win four games to win the Championship.”

The Giants received good news about guard Bernard Nugent who missed the last seven regular-season games. He will return to the team after recovering from an ankle injury in February. Nugent will add much-needed support to a top-ranked Jacksonville defense as the team’s leader in steals. With Nugent’s return to fans can expect to see multiple defensive pressures and strategies from Coach Waters and the coaching staff.

“Bernard coming back is big,” said Williams.

Another worthy note is that Calvin Warner may return to the Giants following a one-month stint playing in the Philippines. Warner scored 13 points in Jacksonville’s big 112-108 win over the Chicago Steam in January. Warner was an immense contribution in the rebounding department with an average of eight boards per game before he left for the Philippines.

“Calvin Warner is eligible to play,” said Giants GM Pam Masters. “We are not sure if he (Warner) will be attending the Loredo trip, we will know next week.”