Mississippi Silverbacks debut season leads to division champions

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – The Mississippi Silverbacks have written themselves into the history books, taking home a division championship in their debut season. Very few teams have reached this milestone within the American Basketball Association in five decades.

The Mississippi Silverbacks is one of the only teams in the American Basketball Association to have won division championships in their inaugural season in nearly 50 years.

“A lot of people didn’t give us a chance. They didn’t think it would work. But I always knew this would be an asset,” said JoJuan Johnson, team owner.

The team finished their first season, ranking third in the BA South Black Division as well as 24th nationally in the league.

“Where these guys are at this point is absolutely amazing,” said Johnson.

He said he knew of his athlete’s potential; they just needed an opportunity to prove it.

“It’s a testament of what we got here in this state, you know what we’re doing, what we’re looking to be. It’s just year one. We won our divisional. We’re headed to the regional championship this weekend. If we get through that, we’ll be heading to the national championship,” said James Evans, a forward with the Silverbacks.

He said Johnson never doubted the team.

“He has been saying this since day one. You know, we gone win our division. Even when we were down, even when we would lose games, he was always an uplifting spirit. It just kept me going. It kept me by his side. That’s the main reason why I’m still here,” said Evans.

Johnson said the admiration is likewise.

“They help me bring this thing to life. So, I’m forever grateful to them for just coming in fighting, representing Mississippi, standing strong, and competing at a high level like I know they know how to do,” said Johnson.

Head coach Matthew Riley is the playmaker behind the team’s success.

“I’m not surprised. I’m pretty sure the players not surprised that we’re in the position we’re in now just cause of the way that we play and the roster that we got. We getting to a point where we have a nice structured roster we can work with. So once we have that. The players, it’s just a matter of them guys showing up. We’ll go to battle anybody,” said Riley.

Although the Silverbacks are based in Starkville, Riley said the support from fans isn’t limited to just one region in the state.

“We’re a statewide team so we don’t just represent one city. We represent all cities within the state so we appreciate everybody for coming through. We hope the fans grow as they get to see and are educated on what we do,” said Riley.

Win or lose, Evans leaves a message for his fellow teammates.

“Job well done. Look forward to next year. Keep the plan together. Stick together like glue. The results will speak for itself,” Evans.

The Silverbacks will advance to the ABA South Region Tournament in Mobile, Alabama this upcoming weekend.

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