Daniel Price wanted professional basketball in Pikeville just as much or more than anybody.
He tried to move his Mississippi Blues organization up here last year, but was unsuccessful. Price was the 2009/2010 ABA defensive player of the year, a ABA Western Conference All-Star and averaged 25.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, four assists and three steals per game this past season. So when given the chance to sign with the ABA’s East Kentucky Energy, Price jumped at the chance to return here to play.
“It’s always a good thing when I can come back to Pikeville and play,” Price said. “I love it here and I am happy there is a pro organization back here.”
Price became the second player to sign with the newly formed East Kentucky Energy.
“I’m just excited that Jerry (Boggs) and Tommy (Hamilton) decided to do this,” Price said. “I’ve known Jerry for a while and Tommy too. I know that they are local guys who live here and have their business here. It’s just reassuring to know that the owners are going to be right here supported the product and doing whatever they can to make the organization grow, instead of just bringing a team in and then going home to Florida. They are doing this for their community and want to see this community grow in every way it can. I’m excited to be a part of that and can’t wait to give back to this community.”
After the first tryout, the Energy also signed Jarell Jones another former Pikeville College guard.
Hamilton and his wife, Charla, or owners of Champs Sports Bar and Grill on Main Street. Boggs is editor of the Appalachian News-Express.
“Our goal from the start has been to build this team with strong local ties and root it in the community,” said Hamilton. “Daniel is a huge part of that. He was a tremendous player for Pikeville College and an ABA All-Star last year. His talent on the court and his leadership ability makes him a huge asset for the Energy.”
Price has been running his own ABA franchise the Mississippi Blues for the past two seasons, so his knowledge of the ABA and what it takes to be successful will also be an asset to the Energy.
“I’m going to be on the court playing and visible to the fans, but I can also be the kind of behind the scenes guy too if they need me to be,” Price said. “I own my own franchise, the Mississippi Blues, so I know how to operate a franchise. I am going to do whatever they ask of me to help this franchise to be as successful as possible. Whether that is helping with organizing events within the community or running practices or trying to gain new sponsors.”
Paintsville legend and current Phelps girls coach J.R. VanHoose was the first player to sign with the Energy. Price talked about getting the chance to play alongside VanHoose.
“Daniel is a great compliment to J.R. both on and off the court,” said Boggs. “Both are natural-born leaders, have played professionally, been head coaches and know the game of basketball. And just as importantly they are two great people in the community to be
ambassadors of the East Kentucky Energy.”
Price has competed against VanHoose professionally and said he’s looking forward to combining for a talented inside-outside threat.
“I think signing a player the caliber of J.R. VanHoose was great,” Price said. “He is a local guy with a proven track record. I played against him in the KBDL and I know what he can do. He is a player, flat out. He has ties to Eastern Kentucky and I think that is great that the Energy are looking to sign guys from Eastern Kentucky who can play. I have always told people that Eastern Kentucky has a lot of great talent. I played at Pikeville and have a lot of friends here, so they are looking at guys who have a reason to play hard and build a team this community can really support. I think the fans will really get behind this team.”
This past Saturday, the Energy held their first tryouts. Price was on hand to help with the drills and evaluate the talent that showed up.
“You can already tell that there is major interest in this team,” Price said. “There was a good turnout this early. The season doesn’t start until December and there were guys here from Detroit and North Carolina and the rest were local guys. There is a need for pro basketball here in Pikeville. Basketball keeps growing here with the success of the high school teams and Pikeville College and now the East Kentucky Energy wants to be a part of that growing success of East Kentucky basketball.”
Price has signed on with the Energy, but he hasn’t decided what he is going to do with his franchise the Mississippi Blues.
“I really haven’t decided what I’m going to do with my team,” Price said. “I got somebody who has offered to buy it, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with the team yet. It’s just kind of up in the air. Right now, I’m just excited about coming back to Pikeville and playing with the Energy.”
After an impressive performance at the first tryouts, Jones earned a spot on the East Kentucky Energy roster. Jones played at Pikeville College and was a part of Price’s Mississippi Blues squad last season.
“Jarell Jones is another Pikeville College product who has had tremendous success playing professionally,” said Boggs. “He turned in a great performance at the first tryout and was happy to come back to Pikeville to play basketball again.”
Jones and Price will form a talented backcourt with years of experience playing together.
“Jarrell and DP have played together professionally, collegiately at Pikeville College, and played against each other in high school and AAU,” said Hamilton. “Their familiarity with one another will make them a tough duo in this league. We’re happy to bring Jarell back to Pikeville to continue his basketball career.”
The East Kentucky squad has three roster spots filled and will keep building the Energy until the start of the ABA season.