First Chattanooga Rail Runners game tips off Sunday

First Chattanooga Rail Runners game tips off Sunday

February 28th, 2014 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Chattanooga Rail Runners head coach Rodney English watches his team practice at the Rossville Athletic Center. The Rail Runners are the Chattanooga area's only professional basketball team. The play in the Central Basketball Association.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga Rail Runners, the city's only professional basketball team, will have its first game at the Rossville Athletic Center this weekend.

Showtime is at 3 p.m. Sunday when the Rail Runners will square off with the Bowling Green Hornets of Kentucky.

Retired Globetrotter Paul "Showtime" Gaffney purchased the Rail Runners in January.

"I'm in the process of being a platform to assist someone to get to the next level," he said. "My motto is preparing sports enthusiasts for college, career and life."

Gaffney played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters from 1992 to 2008. He held the same position as Globetrotter greats like Goose Tatum, Meadowlark Lemon and Geese Ausbie.

Now, he said, he plans to help others find success.

Fourteen men ages 22 to 30 make up the team. Rob Murphy played basketball for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Dontay Hampton played for UTC, Rail Runners coach Rodney English said.

"If you want to see a good brand of basketball with guys who were born and raised in Chattanooga and around the region you need to come," he said.

English, now a teacher of exceptional education at East Hamilton School, is a former assistant men's basketball coach at UTC.

Sunday's game will be the first in a three-month basketball season expected to end in May.

Before it ends all seven teams in the Central Basketball Association, which includes the Rail Runners, are scheduled to play in Chattanooga. And the number of teams in the league is expected to double in 2015. A larger league means more exposure, English said.

He said he wouldn't be surprised if some team members get offered contracts to play overseas by the end of this season.

Contracts usually pay from about $67,000 a year to $500,000 a year depending on which league the player is in and where he's playing, said English.

Getting a player with potential to play in the NBA is rare, English said, but it would not be far-fetched for several men on the team to play overseas, he said.

The next tryouts for the Rail Runners are scheduled around January 2015, English said.