FLINT – The Flint Monarchs continue to wipe through teams in their first season of the Women's American Basketball Association.
On Saturday, July 12, Flint picked up its fifth straight victory to stay undefeated (5-0) with a 93-64 blowout victory over the Louisville Fillies at Mott Community College.
Flint Hamady graduate Jasmine Thomas, a former guard at Michigan State, nearly notched a triple double with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to lead the way.
Jasmine McCall added 14 points, Ashley Jones scored 13 points, and Tara Johnson and Raelyn Prince both finished with 11 points apiece.
"It was our best effort all year," said Monarchs coach Bill Schnorenberg. "Defensively, we made a statement. Our guards set the tone and we are playing right now to win the championship. If we play like this, we will win."
Monarchs style of play mirrors Detroit Pistons 'Bad Boys'
Monarchs regroup for time out.
FLINT, MI – If you attend a Flint Monarchs game, you will see a mentally tough, hard-nosed team that plays defense, scores in transition and gets physical if necessary.
There's only one team that comes to mind when Monarchs coach Bill Schnorenberg is asked to describe their style.
"We're like the Pistons from 1988," Schnorenberg said. "We play great defense, we run, but without the fighting."
That's certainly a bold statement coming from a team in its first year of professional basketball in the Women's American Basketball Association, but so far the girls have sort of lived up to his comparison – minus the championships.
The Monarchs are 4-0 with four games remaining, but until any championships are hoisted, likening themselves to the Bad Boys will remain a courageous claim.
"We're a great all-around basketball team and I want us to be mentally tough like (the old Pistons), play great defense and also get out and run," Schnorenberg said. "We do all that."
Flint is holding teams to 62 points, while averaging 78 points on offense.
The Louisville Fillies (5-2) are next on the Monarchs' schedule this Saturday, July 12, at Ballenger Field House on Mott Community College's campus. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. Louisville is averaging close to 100 points per game and the Fillies are a guard-heavy bunch that likes to shoot 3-pointers. Former University of Louisville forward Monique Reid is also a strong, low-post presence for the team.
"We're going to have to have our best defensive game of the year to try and slow this team down and not get into a track meet with them, because they like to get out and run and shoot threes," said Schnorenberg. "Our big key is to slow them down and not give up a lot of three-pointers."
Flint Hamady graduate and former Eastern Michigan player Tara Johnson is considered Flint's most versatile player. She averages roughly 14 points and 11 rebounds and has made the most improvement in the last couple of years because she has really worked hard in the off-season.
Schnorenberg compares her to former Piston Bad Boy Dennis Rodman with her tenacity on defense and commitment to rebounding. Johnson agrees.
"When I get on the court, my main focus is to rebound and I don't care about scoring," Johnson said. "If I rebound and defend, then the points will always come. If I'm focusing on rebounding and defending, the points will come in.
"I loved Dennis Rodman when he played with the Pistons."
Inside the organization, The Monarchs are committed to not losing and not even taking a chance of losing. The ladies want to win a championship.
Forget trying to be like the Bad Boys, they want to build a name for the Monarchs.
"I'm looking forward winning a championship," Johnson said.
FLINT, MI -- The Flint Monarchs are still unbeaten.
On Saturday, June 28, Flint picked up another win at Ballenger Field House on Mott Community College's campus to start the season 4-0 in the Women's American Basketball Association (WABA).
The Pittsburgh Super Stars were the latest team to fall, 71-63.
Flint Hamady graduate Tara Johnson put on another all-around performance with 12 points, 11 Rebounds and two assists. Jasmine McCall finished 15 points and four rebounds, Demeisha Fambro tallied 9 points and nine rebounds.
Former Eastern Michigan player India Hairston added 11 points with eight rebounds, Flint native Brandie Baker chipped in12 points while Ashley Jones posted 11 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
"We are coming together really good," said Monarchs coach Bill Schnorenberg. "The league is going to have its growing pains, but they're taking what this is of building something here very seriously.
"Teams now know about us and they're throwing everything they can at us, but everyone is playing well," he added. "Tara Johnson has been amazing for us and everyone from top to bottom on the roster."
The Louisville Fillies are the next team scheduled to face the undefeated Monarchs. Flint and Louisville will tip off at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 12, at Ballenger Field House.
Four more games are scheduled on the regular season for the Monarchs in their first year of becoming a professional franchise.
Flint's first professional women's basketball team picked up a lopsided victory over Chicago, 96-53. Six players scored in double figures for the Monarchs.
Ashley Jones posted a team-high 14 points and eight rebounds. Former Detroit Mercy star Demeisha Fambro scored 12 points, Flint native Tara Johnson finished with 10 points and 11 Rebounds, Jasmine Thomas tallied 10 points, three rebounds and three assists, Jasmine McCall scored 14 points with two assists and Tab Harvey added 10 points.
"Everybody was kind of nervous to start and it's understandable being the first to do something and having pro on it," Monarchs coach Bill Schnorenberg said. "Everyone contributed and played well after our slow start. The crowd started getting into the game and it was a great experience."
Linnell Jones-McKenney made her debut as the oldest women in the Women's American Basketball Association (WABA) at 55-years-old with eight points.
Flint's next game is Saturday, June 14, at Philadelphia Love. Saturday, June 28, is the Monarchs' next home game versus Pittsburgh at Ballenger Field House.
"We're on the right path here getting this going," Schnorenberg said.
The Monarchs bring Flint first women's Pro basketball team
Monarchs encourage each other on the court
FLINT -- When the Monarchs step on the court at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 7, for their first game versus the Chicago Lady Steam in Ballenger Field House on Mott Community College's campus, history will be made.
Nobody can ever take away those bragging rights but to truly have an impact on the Flint area, the team must stick around for the long haul, which is much easier said than done, say those who have been there with other pro teams and done that.
"We're taking this very seriously and I want this to be treated as big as the (Detroit) Pistons and the Shock and I've looked at it that way since the beginning," said Monarchs coach Bill Schnorenberg. "The girls are taking it very seriously and the entire organization is very dedicated because this is a humbling experience knowing that you're the first to do something."
Semi-pro and pro teams come and go in Flint as often as the men in Kim Kardashian's life.
So failing to prepare is preparing to fail in the business of professional sports in Genesee County. Social media use and every other form of marketing will have to get put to use if this team wants to last, according to others who have been through the ringer in Flint.
Owners have tried to bring pro teams in hockey, men's basketball, baseball, and arena football here but more of them have folded than lasted. Flint's Fuze, Vehicles, Arrows, Fire, Spirits, Pros, Gems, Indians, Flames and other mascots have fizzled out for various reasons, but the common theme seemed to be attendance, promotion, lack of interest and bad leadership in the front office.
The Flint Generals were easily the most successful professional team in the area, surviving two stints. The franchise first arrived in the summer of 1969 and stayed until 1985 in the International Hockey League. Their games were played at the IMA Sports Arena – now Perani Arena – on weekends that didn't conflict with the average fans' work schedule. Flint's connection to General Motors is why the hockey team took on the "Generals" as a name, and it was widely successful.
Pro hockey was still going on in Flint after 1985, but the Generals name didn't return until 1993. The new Generals stuck around until 2010, winning a couple of championships, but what made the Generals so special is that they were so invested in the community at the ideal time.
"We were fortunate that when we came back in 1993 that it was really kind of a perfect storm and we had nostalgic name and colors," said Robb King, former Generals general manager. "We were incredibly active with promotions, giveaways and making sure the players were out in the community, whether it was doing autograph signings for sponsors or going to the schools on every available off day to visit with kids.
"We really took a grassroots approach to building our audience and it wasn't just throwing the doors open and hoping people would come support us, especially in a blue-collar town like Flint."
Former NBA veteran Jeff Grayer tried his best to make the last men's professional team work in the Continental Basketball Association but the Flint Fuze only stayed around for the 2001 season, despite having NBA talent on the roster. Ira Newble, Jermaine Jackson and Desmond Ferguson all got called up to the NBA from their time with Flint's CBA team but the level of talent still wasn't enough to create a big enough buzz for the squad to stay around. The Fuze's introductory press conference was also overshadowed by the tragic events of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., and the love for high school basketball in Flint at the time.
"The high school talent pool has been so great to where we kind of veered away from the adults playing professional sports as well," Grayer said. "The key to maintaining a professional team here is getting the fans involved and as a community we have to make the awareness.
"One of the things that happened with the Fuze is that we were getting off the ground slowly and the success was high at the beginning, but we only had a short window to make it happen, so whoever the owners of this (Monarchs) team must have patience and try the best they can to get the city involved from a governmental standpoint," he added.
Making a professional sports team work in Flint will definitely be challenging but this is something that the Monarchs already knew going into this situation. The Monarchs are the city's first professional women's basketball team but they don't want to be the last.
"A pro team could stay in the city of Flint but the big thing is costs, attendance and community buy-in," said Monarchs President and General Manager Dreyon Wynn. "The person that's going to lead any type of pro team needs to know that it's not about making a profit so this is really more for the love and respect for the game."
Who are the Monarchs?
The Monarchs aren't a team that just popped up out of nowhere. Wynn began building a following on the semi-pro level in the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League since 2011, when none of the women were paid.
Even before taking on the Monarchs moniker, Wynn coached the Flint Flames in the WBCBL for two years under different ownership but the team folded because of low attendance and other financial struggles. After the league approached him to continue the team, Wynn took on the head role and has stayed determined to push the women's game in Flint.
Wynn sees the WABA as a perfect opportunity to make pro sports work in Flint. The 2003 business graduate of Central Michigan University says he ultimate career goal is to own a WNBA team. Years down the line, he sees this as a possibility. Eventually, he sees the WABA becoming a feeder league directly to the WNBA or maybe even reaching that level.
"It's about having something for other young women to be able to look to or people to look up to," Wynn said. "I have a 3-year-old daughter named Nia that I want to be involved in sports, so this is an opportunity for her to have something to look to as she's growing up."
All of Flint's home games will be played on MCC's campus at Ballenger Field House in the Steve Schmidt Gymnasium. Nine games are booked on Flint's schedule, four at home, and Schnorenberg is trying to add another one to the list. Tickets are affordable, at $3 for kids and $7 for adults.
Six teams are only solidified for the WABA's re-launch season because some that were interested committed to other leagues and are watching to see how well this league gets off the ground. Chicago's Lady Steam, Louisville Fillies, Philadelphia Love, Pittsburgh Super Stars, New Jersey Expressions and the Flint Monarchs make up the WABA right now. Other teams were curious, but WABA CEO Sonya Nichols closed registration early because she wanted to start in June.
"I have confidence in the owner in Flint," Nichols said. "This league will be competitive because the level of play will be a lot higher than some of the other semi-pro leagues that are out here."
Wynn and Schnorenberg worked diligently to put a quality roster together that includes players with college experience at Michigan at schools such as Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Wayne state, Detroit Mercy, Michigan and Marygrove. Schnoreberg also served as the team's director of player personnel.
Tara Johnson, Jasmine Thomas, Jasmine McCall, Karmin Byrd, Meisha Fambro, Nya Jordan, Tab Harvey, Linnell Jones-McKenney, India Hairston, Ashley Jones, and Brandie Baker made the final cut. Johnson, Jones-McKenney, Hairston, and Baker are the Flintstones on the roster. Baker just returned from a WNBA tryout with the Los Angeles Sparks.
"We're going to put a great basketball team on the floor and everything's going to be high class," Schnorenberg said. "We're just going to continue to see what works and what doesn't work, and the women's game is growing."
There can only be one first.
Innovative and original are usually words synonymous with firsts, so why aren't the Flint Monarchs viewed in that light just yet? Either fans don't know, don't show or don't care about what's going on with this former semi-pro organization.
Helping the Monarchs blaze the trail for others to come is none other than Jones-McKenney, an area hoops pioneer, who is Flint's first female player to ever make it pro in 1980. Jones-McKenney isn't a marketing ploy, though. Schnorenberg says she can really play and will contribute.
"I'm looking to do something to impact and influence this generation and my main goal is to do something that nobody has ever done to get somewhere that nobody has ever gotten," said 55-year-old Jones-McKenney, who was signed as one of the oldest women's pro players in U.S. basketball history.
Jones-McKenney graduated from Flint Northwestern High School in 1976 -- before most of her teammates were even thought of -- and scored 84 points in a single game in Italy when some of them were infants.
The league is professional, but below the Women's National Basketball Association, which is respected as the premier women's league in America. The players are paid, but it's nothing they can seriously make a living off of, so the ladies are playing mostly for the love of the game.
"People look at me and say, 'You're crazy or you're too old,' but you can't listen to what they say, you've got to listen to your heart and what you believe you can do," Jones-McKenney said. "If you believe in the impossible, you can do the impossible. For most people, it's impossible for a 55-year-old woman to get out there and compete with these young ladies but in my situation I'm not trying to compete I'm trying contribute."
FLINT, MI – Professional women's basketball is coming back to the Great Lakes State. Thank Flint Monarchs President and General Manager Dreyon Wynn for that.
Wynn has decided to part ways with the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League after two seasons as a semi-pro organization to merge with the Women's American Basketball Association as a pro franchise for its re-launch in 2014. The Flint Monarchs will officially become a pro team when the WABA fires up in May 2014. The WABA runs concurrently to the WNBA season in the summer months from May-August.
"Since the Detroit Shock left Detroit four years ago, Michigan hasn't had a pro team and it's rather unfortunate because Michigan is a very rich state, basketball-wise," said Wynn, a 1997 graduate of Flint Northern High School. "We've been able to produce some outstanding women's basketball players not just in Michigan but Flint has as well."
Wynn, 35, says the move to make the Monarchs a pro team has been in the works since the beginning of the year, but didn't become a ssure thing until a few weeks ago, before the Monarchs prepared to return to the WBCBL's National Tournament in St. Louis, Mo. He asked the WABA to keep it under wraps until he informed the WBCBL after Flint's tournament run ended.
From now on, players will be paid to suit up for the Monarchs.
"We will run and operate like a team overseas would and that's how this organization will pay the women," said Wynn. "We are aware of what salaries are and consist of, so we're going to mirror what an overseas operation would be, so paying players by the month or negotiating contracts that way."
Wynn said he would like to play games in Flint, but may change the name to the Michigan Monarchs to appeal to a broader audience, which may also attract statewide sponsors. Wynn is still struggling to secure a gym to hold games, targeting local spots like the International Academy of Flint and other Genesee County high schools.
If nothing works out in Flint, Wynn is open to branching out to play in Birch Run or the Oakland County area.
"If I were to describe the Flint Monarchs, I would have to use the word evolution, because we're evolving," Wynn said. "At each stage and each step, we've improved. I have a vision and I'm at a place in life where I can be more focused on the Monarchs, and we will continue to go higher."
Thirteen teams are set to enter the WABA in its inaugural season. Organizers are expecting 24 squads to be registered by the time it kicks off next summer. There is a $25,000 licensing fee to join the WABA and owners must meet the criteria to purchase the market after being approved.
To make it through the approval process, owners must have a clean background without a criminal record and should have a track record of success in running a basketball team. The league administrators don't pick and choose the specific markets for teams but there is a rule that proposed owners can't be within 150 miles of each other unless they're in different states or the owner allows another team to enter the market. The WABA is trying to reach the same status as the WNBA.
"We're already competing with the WNBA," said WABA Chief Operations Officer Sporty Smith. "The WABA is a league just like the WNBA. We're allowing ladies more opportunities to play pro ball by not only creating more teams, but by allowing them to be 18 and older without having to go to college, and they wouldn't have an opportunity to play if we just left it to the WNBA because they require college experience."
A big portion of Flint's roster for the past few years has been made up of local products such as Beecher's Natasha Morris and Hamady's India Hairston, Brandie Baker, and Tara Johnson. Former Monarchs coach Deonta McChester, a 2001 Flint Northwestern grad, got his feet wet on the sidelines in Flint before he was elevated to the head coaching gig at Claflin University this offseason. Ex-Monarch Brittany Brown is another Flint native who played with the squad before getting promoted to head coach at the Community College of Rhode Island in July. The Monarchs have been a great springboard for people in the past but things are now looking even better since the franchise is turning pro.
"It's great to get the 'semi'eliminated from what we're doing," said Bill Schnorenberg, who coached the Monarchs to a 10-2 record this season. "When you hear the word 'semi-pro,' no matter what it is, people kind of get the wrong impression but 'pro basketball' gives it a step up and that just makes everything more legitimate and that will get more people interested to want to watch. We already have a lot of talent, but that will also open up the talent pool for people who want to play professional basketball."
Wynn is searching for the best talent available in all aspects of the franchise. He already informed players and the coaching staff that he may be making changes, if necessary, to make sure this team works.
"We're trying to improve and go up higher, so everything across the board will be better," Wynn said. "We're trying to get the right people in place and on board by generating energy and starting now for next season."
There has never been a local pro basketball franchise in Flint for women, but the Continental Basketball Association did bring the Pros and Fuze to the Vehicle City as minor league teams for men that paid. Neither team stuck. The Pros played in Flint during the 1972-73 season before returning to Flint Town for a few games in 1973-74, but the lack of attendance forced the team to fold. The Fuze only lasted the 2001 season before relocating to Birch Run as the Great Lakes Storm before shutting down because of low attendance. Local businessman and youth basketball coach Sean Woodruff attempted to bring an ABA team, Flint Fire, to the area in 2011, but it never got off the ground despite his high hopes.
The Monarchs were also known as the Flint Flames before Wynn took over the organization in 2011.
Flint's first NBA player, Justus Thigpen once carried the Pros in his heyday, averaging over 40 points per game, with no three-point line, in the 1972-73 season. He knows the challenges that Wynn is facing in creating a pro team to Flint. Thigpen hopes Wynn goes about doing things in an efficient manner.
"It will be great to have women's professional basketball but we've got to get some quality players behind this," Thigpen said. "They've got to bring in some people with some reputable names, but I'd love to see this. That would be great for Flint. I stand behind that 100 percent."
Thigpen's son, Justus Thigpen Jr., played with the Fuze and his daughter Reba Thigpen was an assistant coach and player for the Monarchs, so the area legend is really pulling hard for things to run smoothly in the WABA.
"I think it's great. It's a great move for Flint. I'd like to see it go through," said Thigpen. "I'd like to see the people of Flint get behind this."