By: Teresa Helton-Garrett
Seymour Herald Staff Writer
The Smoky Mountain Jam, formerly the Knoxville Thunderbolts, heads up their professional sports basketball exhibition game at 7pm, November 28th against the Salem Mustangs at the newly built Catlettsburg Elementary School in Sevierville.
This pre-season exhibition game is to get the team prepared for a tough season opener against the reigning ABA Champs, the Kentucky Bisons the following weekend.
The team was renamed during the off-season by the ownership group that came in mid-season during the team’s inaugural year.
During the 2008-2009 season the team reached many heights that was unexpected. Throughout the season, they made the top 20 teams in the American Basketball Association (ABA) power rankings for a number of weeks.
The season also saw the team entering playoffs and surprising the league by winning successive games over a number of favored teams.
The first season success was even more surprising considering the fact that the ABA was a 40-team league.
Thunderbolts former Director of Basketball Operations, Michael Taylor returns as Smoky Mountain Jam’s General Manager. Taylor graduated from Bearden High School in 1989 where he played basketball. He attended the Tennessee Wesleyan College for his freshman year, where he served as a student assistant. He transferred to Pellissippi State Technical Community College in Knoxville where he earned an associate’s degree in Marketing Technology. Taylor is currently self-employed as an insurance broker.
Coach Chad Smith returns to the team after a successful season of coaching the Knoxville Thunderbolts during the team’s inaugural season. Smith is a 1992 graduate of Powell High School and currently is entering his 9th year of teaching US History at South Doyle High School. Smith was named Coach of the year for District 4AAA for leading South Doyle to a second place finish in the district and for achieving the second most wins in the schools history. Smith is currently a candidate for the Doctorate of Education degree from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN.
Also returning to the coaching staff as Assistant Head Coach is Larry Robinson. Robinson brings over 40 years of playing and coaching experience. Robinson’s college playing experience began at Ferrum Junior College where he led his team to the NJCAA National Tournament two consecutive years and earned honors as All-American. He finished his college career at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and was captain of the 1973 SEC Championship team.
After his basketball career at Tennessee, Robinson played a stint in the National Football League (NFL) with the Dallas Cowboys. For the past 10 years, Robinson has coached the Tennessee Travelers Basketball Club and has been a member of the Nike Elite Summer Basketball Program. He is currently employed by AT&T as an area Sales Manager-internet.
The final member of the coaching staff, also returning from last season, is Coach Pat Walden. He was a member of the university of Tennessee SEC Championship team in 1982 and has been coaching AAU Championship team for over 20 years. His coaching highlights include numerous appearances in AAU National Championships, with his team regularly placing in the Top 5.
Walden was also a champion coach at the HOOPFEST, one of the Nation’s Top Summer Tournaments. He has also helped establish the Pilot Rocky Top League in Knoxville, where he was named Coach of The Year. He is proud to say that he has coached several players that have advanced to the NBA and WNBA including NCAA Tournament Regional MVP’s and First Round Draft Picks.
The team is looking forward to combining efforts with Catlettsburg Elementary School’s administration to help raise funds for computers and other necessary items that the school has not been able to obtain.
For more information about the 2009-2010 Smoky Mountain Jam Basketball visit their website at smokymountainjam.com.
Sevierville Welcomes ABA Professional Basketball Team
By: Teresa Helton-Garrett