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Semipro team wants to fulfill hoop dreams

– In the opinion of Bennie Lewis, there are a lot of basketball players in the Fort Wayne area with the talent to play at the professional level.

All they lack are the tools to advertise their skills to potential teams – video clips, statistics, conditioning regimens and the opportunity to play against quality opponents. Lewis hopes to solve that with the formation of the Fort Wayne Flite.

The semipro basketball team will play in the Central Basketball Association beginning March 8 in St. Louis with a roster of players that includes former local high school stars Antonio Wilson, Pervis Hall, Chase Sander, Reggie Lytle and Dazron Booker.

Anthony Johnson played at Indiana Tech, Montique Taylor at IPFW and James Humphrey at Missouri-Kansas City.

“If you have looked in a basketball player’s eyes, as I do, you see that dream sitting there but they’re babysitting and the wife is going to work or something like that,” said Lewis, the Flite’s organizer. “Then they get out here and you see that gleam still in their eyes. They’re really not that far but their wings have been clipped a little bit.”

The Flite will play in the McMillen Park Community Center, when renovations are completed. Until then, they will play at The Summit, 1025 W. Rudisill Blvd.. There will be an open house Sunday at The Summit, featuring games with players of all ages at 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The regular-season home opener will be March 15 and the Flite will be coached by Rod Wilmont, a former Indiana guard and assistant coach at Canterbury.

The Flite will play a 20-game season. The seven-team CBA aims to get players moved up to professional leagues overseas or the D-League.

The Mad Ants are members of the D-League and Lewis’ son played for the Ants this season.

“We want to help guys launch into that type of thing,” Bennie Lewis said. “It’s to keep them in shape, give them a fresh résumé and to pretty much get them ready.

“They are all local guys, who played at Fort Wayne high schools and maybe in college. They are living here, some with kids, and it’s a second chance. They love the game and they want to play.”

Lewis, who works with Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation, chose the name with the unusual spelling to honor aviation in the area, to have a moniker that would look sharp on uniforms and to keep it unique from teams named Flight in the country.

“It’s catchy and rolls off your tongue,” said Lewis, who has helped get local players tryouts with professional teams in the past.

“We try to get them placed overseas and a lot of them, because they haven’t played since high school or maybe played a year of college, they might not have anything current (for their résumé ). I can train and work with them to actually get them ready to try out for some of the teams.”