By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Ronald Jenkins helped launch a new professional basketball team in Muskegon last year.

Now, it’s time for the West Michigan Lake Hawks to shed the diapers heading into their second American Basketball Association season.

“The baby was born and now we have to be ready to sprint,” said Jenkins, the team’s chief operating officer and head coach. “The first season was exciting with a learning curve. We had to learn the professional side of it. We competed at a high level.”

The Lake Hawks finished 14th nationally last season among 102 teams in the ABA, an namesake of the old ABA which eventually merged with the National Basketball Association. Not bad for an inaugural franchise and a roster dotted with many area players.

Jenkins is now working overtime to set up the Lake Hawks for even more success this season, which begins Nov. 8 in Detroit against the Chicago Fury. He’s currently seeking a few more players for the roster and some assistant coaches.

The highlight of the season will be an ESPN-televised game on Jan. 3 in Denver against the Colorado Kings.

“They wanted us to represent the ABA on ESPN and I said absolutely. We are a second-year organization and I was excited we were chosen. It lets us know we are doing something good here,” Jenkins said.

The Lake Hawks, who are part of the North Central Division, are scheduled for 27 regular-season games. Jenkins said home games likely will be rotated at Muskegon Heights Academy, Reeths-Puffer High School and Western Michigan Christian High School.

Oakland County, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Libertyville, IL are some other teams on this year’s challenging schedule. There will be more travel this season with an expanded schedule at more distant cities.

There are divisions around the nation is the sprawling league, and top teams at the end of each season are invited to compete in a national tournament for the league title.

Jenkins said the Lake Hawks are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. He said sponsorships, community support and marketing are being emphasized this off-season.

The Lake Hawks also partner with other non-profits in the area like the YMCA and Big Brothers, Big Sisters, as well as schools like Muskegon Heights Academy to benefit the community.

Jenkins said mentoring with children in the community is another emphasis for the Lake Hawks.

Jenkins and General Manager Jeff Burris currently are crafting a roster of 12-14 players.

Ralph Monday, Takarri Churchwell, Anthony Crump, Nate Jennings, Brandon Givens and Ade Adeniji are expected back after playing on last year’s team.

The front office also has been expanded with the addition of Director of Operations Morgan DeVries and Assistant General Manager Erich Adams, who is also the athletic director at Muskegon Catholic Central High School.

The Lake Hawks provide a platform for hopeful players to cut their teeth professionally and perhaps advance to higher levels like the National Basketball Association, the NBA Development League (D-League) and overseas leagues.

Jenkins said former Lake Hawks Anthony Thompson, Terrance Billups, Will Avery and Bernard Webb all have advanced to higher professional opportunities.

Overall, Jenkins said the organization has a better understanding of the professional environment, ABA rules and speed of the game entering its second season.

“At the professional level, you must close and finish situations,” Jenkins said. “Now I know what to expect.”

Expectations will be high again, Jenkins said, since the ABA has predicted an Elite Eight finish for the Lake Hawks.

Jenkins and his staff are working hard to put the final preparations together for the second season. He hopes the community will continue to support professional basketball.

“The boat is sailing,” Jenkins said. “It is definitely moving. I’m thankful to God to have the opportunity to bring something positive to the community for people to do in the winter months.”

For more information on the Lake Hawks, see