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Pro-am Sabers lighting up North Shelby

Published 9:17pm Saturday, June 23, 2012

By ALDO AMATO

NORTH SHELBY — Despite basketball season officially closing with the Miami Heat’s championship win, one team in North Shelby is still bringing out the multitudes for high flying, basketball action this summer.

The Birmingham Sabers, a semi-professional basketball team based out of Birmingham, have provided glimpses for Birminghamians and residents of Shelby County of something they have been longing for years to see, professional caliber basketball.

Sabers owner Paul Smith said that for the past three years, the guys who have come through the Sabers program are using it as an outlet to further improve themselves.

“We have such potent offensive weapons,” he said. “Guys like Jason Smith, who was our leading last year, also play professionally in Germany.”

Smith, also known as “Tall Paul” (stands 6’6”), is also a junior high school teacher at Briarwood Christian School.  He said that he is grateful for the partnership with the Lions for allowing the Sabers to use their gymnasium as their home court.

“I actually teach school at Briarwood full time so we established that relationship,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity to use their venue so I’m hoping it can last forever.”

The Sabers are not just a rag tag group of former college basketball standouts.  The team is part of the six-team Continental Basketball League based out of Florida and sanctioned by FIBA Americas. With its history of failed player-development franchises, the Huntsville Flight (NBADL), the state’s last-ditched effort for semi-professional play seems to lie with the Sabers.

“Our season begins right after the college playing days and just before they go to NBA and overseas drafts,” Smith said. “So it is a great time for these guys to come and work on their skills and play under all NBA rules.”

First year shooting guard Jajuan Franklin said that the Sabers have provided exposure for his game and is a nice outlet for further opportunities.

“I like the competition here,” he said. “Coach Smith is helping me out right now and I like the exposure I’m getting.”

If one were to take a look at the style of play the Sabers play at, the first thing that would come to mind would be the famed And1 mix tapes. Overflowing offense, highlight plays and athleticism all lead to high scoring games.

Sabers combo-guard Demarcus Palmer said that they always like to give the hometown crowd a good show while at the same time, remaining efficient.

“We got a lot of athletic players on this team,” he said. “So on the breakaways, we’re looking to showboat for the crowd and dunk. Show them that we care and thank them for coming out.”

Palmer’s teammate, center Jameson Finley, said that the Sabers are a balanced scoring team but fast paced as well, which can be very entertaining.

“It’s good quality basketball,” he said. “It’s great for people who are playing, who want to learn or are currently learning.”

Finley, who played collegiately at Auburn-Montgomery, is currently averaging a double-double for the second place Sabers.

On Saturday, the team hosted a six game tournament for youth across the region leading up to their final home match-up with Tennessee. Smith said that the proceeds from that game will go to various charities throughout the Birmingham area. In just three years, the team has raised over $5,000 for local charities.

While Birmingham continues to ponder bringing an NBA franchise to its non-existent arena, the Sabers look to continue to light up the scoreboard at Briarwood Christian.

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