It’s game time: Richmond Rockets debut Thursday

The Richmond Rockets, the city's new American Basketball Association team, will face local conference champions the Bay Area Matrix on Thursday night. (photo by: Mitzi Mock)

The Richmond Rockets, the city's new American Basketball Association team, will face local conference champions the Bay Area Matrix on Thursday night. (photo by: Mitzi Mock)

Elzie Bibbs already has his breakfast planned for Thursday.

“I’m thinking scrambled eggs, cheese and toast,” said Bibbs, a member of Richmond’s new basketball team, the Richmond Rockets.

Hearty meals are just one of the ways he’s pumping himself up for the team’s first home game.

On Thursday at 7:30 p.m. the Rockets will make their American Basketball Association debut at Richmond’s Civic Center Memorial Auditorium against the Pacific North Conference defending champion Bay Area Matrix. It’s a night owner Eric Marquis has been looking forward to for more than a year, and he’s doing everything he can at the last minute to make sure Richmond residents are in the stands to greet his team.

“We’re going to community activities, using social media, finding folks on the ground to help us get our tickets sold,” Marquis said.

So far the team has sold around 200 tickets. The Civic Center Memorial Auditorium, where the Rockets will play all their home games, can seat 2,200.

The team’s coach, Lamar Baker, is unfazed and unwavering in his optimism of game-day ticket sales.

“I believe it will be standing room only,” he said.

Ticket sales aren’t the only things that the Rockets are running up to the last minute. As late as Tuesday morning, Baker had players coming to Richmond to try-out for a final spot on the team. He planned to finalize the roster the night before the game.

Those who have made the cut, Baker said, are buying into the team, representing the Rockets at events like the 3-on-3 basketball tournament two weeks ago at Nevin Park, the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program’s Harmony Walk, and most recently a Toys for Tots sign-up drive at the Coronado YMCA.

At a practice Tuesday morning, shooting guard Tita Davis said playing for the Rockets has been a lot different than playing for his old ABA team, the San Francisco Rumble.

“We’re ready to lay our bodies on the line to make sure our team is successful,” he said.

Davis, who spent part of his youth growing up in Richmond, expects a slew of friends and family member to show up on game day. Some, he said, are planning to paint his jersey number on their cheeks.

“Coming from Richmond—it’s a hard place,” Davis said. “If someone makes it, everyone wants to get behind them.”

In addition to buying tickets online or in person on game day, new fans of the team can buy tickets at Richmond’s Police Activities League, the team’s primary community partner.

Larry Lewis, PAL’s Executive Director, said he’s excited by the team’s plans to involve local youth at games.

“They’ll be able to sit on the bench with players to help with towels and water,” he said. “For the kids, it’s all about connection, feeling like they are able to help out and be part of something.”

Marquis is hopeful, but he knows that “something” won’t be anything unless “people give us their endorsement by coming out to games.”

Bibbs said a low turnout on Thursday wouldn’t discourage him.

“We know it’s the first time, so there may not be a lot of people,” he said. “But gradually it will start filling up as we start winning.”

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