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Diesels hope for hometown support

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Indiana Diesels (22) Aaron Hogg looks to slam-dunk the ball over Chicago Steam (12) Andre Loezeras in the 3rd period, Dec. 6, 2010. Tommy Walker | For The Republic
Indiana Diesels (22) Aaron Hogg looks to slam-dunk the ball over Chicago Steam (12) Andre Loezeras in the 3rd period, Dec. 6, 2010. Tommy Walker | For The Republic

SOME of you probably don’t know this, but there’s a semi-professional basketball team in Columbus. Next year, the Indiana Diesels hope to be playing in the downtown sports complex. They want to be the stars of the city.

They say they love Columbus. The question is this: Are you willing to love them back?

On Saturday, the Diesels played the Lake Michigan Admirals in an American Basketball Association game featuring two teams ranked in the top 25. The Diesels were No. 24, and the Admirals were No. 23.

Yet, by my count, there weren’t more than 60 spectators watching the game at Ceraland.

That’s got to be disappointing to the players on the Diesels, some of whom are former college players chasing the ultimate dream of the NBA. And for Rex Voils, the owner of the Diesels, it’s probably led to sleepless nights. How does he sell such a product to Columbus?

The Diesels feature former Wichita State player Aaron “Boss” Hogg, former Ball State guard Chris Ames and showman A.J. Miles, who once displayed his basketball tricks with the AND1 Mixed Tape Tour. Most everyone on the team played college basketball. Head coach Matt Esarey used to work alongside Bob Knight at IU.

What’s not to like about the Diesels?

The problem is, as with every new business venture, success relies heavily on marketing. You need to get the word out.

The Republic has done its job. To my knowledge, we’ve covered every home game. And sports editor Lew Freedman wrote an enlightening piece on some of the players. It’s up to Columbus to decide whether or not they want the Diesels.

Granted, Ceraland’s gym isn’t the greatest place to watch a basketball game. It’s not quite as small as a matchbox, but plenty more people could’ve squeezed in to watch the Diesels play the Admirals on Saturday. And, if they were basketball fans, I think they would’ve been entertained.

Hogg scored 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a losing effort. The Diesels were down 18-2 in the opening minutes, then rallied back. They took the lead in the second quarter, and the game went back and forth until the end.

The speed of the game was what fans should find exciting. You can’t find a faster brand of basketball in southern Indiana. And the talent was there, too.

Let’s just put it this way: You put the Diesels against the best local high school basketball team, and the Diesels win by at least 50 points. So it’s not a glorified parks and recreation league, like some of the Diesels say they’re being perceived.

The Diesels could be a good thing for Columbus. Imagine downtown flooded with sports fans, all checking out the local team in town. We’d have our own stars.

Forget Danny Granger and Peyton Manning. The Pacers won’t fire coach Jim O’Brien, and the Colts won’t be playing anytime soon. So that begs the question.

Why not the Diesels?

Jess Huffman is a sportswriter for The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5632 or by e-mail at

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