By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: July 28, 2011

People rarely get second chances at missed opportunities. However, Suns in-arena MC Cedric Ceballos is the exception.

When he was approached a few years ago by an ownership group to invest in an American Basketball Association (ABA) team in Phoenix, Ceballos declined. But when co-owner Ron Tilley recently re-approached Ceballos with an offer to buy into the ABA’s Arizona Scorpions, the former slam dunk champ didn’t pass it up.

“I should’ve done it (a few years ago) just so I could’ve learned a little bit more,” Ceballos said. “After talking to and learning from (Suns President and CEO) Rick Welts, he encouraged me by saying that I should go and learn and get as much knowledge as I could.”

Tilley, who was the head coach of the team that Ceballos declined investing in a few years ago, was the point-person for Ceballos with this current offer.

“He knew that I was trying to get involved on the ownership side,” Ceballos said. “When an opportunity opened up, I was one of the first people he called. And I jumped at it.”

Tilley will serve as the team’s co-owner and head coach. The Scorpions will be one of the ABA’s new expansion teams for the upcoming 2011-12 season.

For Ceballos, owning an ABA team is a different perspective from the one that used to have during ABA games. After 11 seasons in the NBA, the former Sun played several seasons in the ABA, including stops in LA, Orange County and Maywood.

“I played in the ABA a couple of years and I love the energy and the fact that it’s a good family environment that they seem to care about,” Ceballos said.

One of Ceballos’ motives for getting involved with the Scorpions was to provide another incentive for homegrown talent to stay in the US and play professional basketball, as opposed to heading overseas to make a living.

“I’m not a big fan of players going overseas," Ceballos said. "So if it does build up and go well, it could be a good scenario for players to stop taking that trip over the water.

"If I have an opportunity to change that, then people won’t have to go overseas to make good money. They can stay here and have their family and friends watch them, while staying on the NBA radar, as well.”

The former NBA All-Star is well-aware that the ABA is not going to develop overnight. It’s going to be an on-going process for the league.

However, he cites the Midwest as an example of a region within the league that’s thriving. He’s hoping that the franchises on the West Coast can take a cue from the organizations in the nation’s heartland.

As a new owner, Ceballos will lean on his experience as a Suns employee to prepare him for running a franchise. His knowledge of working on the business side of professional basketball is something that he believes the former ABA team in Phoenix lacked.

‘I think that you would need somebody that has a proper basketball background,” Ceballos said. “All of the help I’ve been getting over the years with (Suns Managing Partner Robert) Sarver and (Suns Chairman Jerry) Colangelo letting me into the office, and just learning and being taught under Rick Welts, motivated me to get involved and take my crack at it.”

Ceballos is hoping that his upcoming experience in the ABA could provide him with an opportunity in the front office of an NBA team.

“Obviously, it’s not the level of the NBA,” he said. “But I’m at the top of the decision making, so hopefully it will prepare me for another job, another opportunity or if something should open up with the Suns.”

His first order of business will be team tryouts on August on 6-7 at Moon Valley High School. After that, he’ll begin preparing his team for training camp and the upcoming season.

His experience playing in the ABA has taught him that getting everyone on the same page and organized is one of the most critical aspects to a team’s success. And although Ceballos will dedicate much of his time to this new venture, his job description with the Suns will remain unchanged.

“Nothing will change with the Suns,” Ceballos said. “In fact, we’re building our schedule around the Suns.”

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