Driving the lane

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Former Gwinnett Players hit the court for Atlanta Vision

It”s been a long, strange trip for former Dacula High School hoops player B.J. Puckett. The 2001 grad played two years of junior college ball before entering a professional career that would take him around the world.

Now Puckett is back in Gwinnett playing forward for the Atlanta Vision of the American Basketball Association. He joins a squad that owner Quentin Townsend hopes will endear itself to fans looking for a truly hometown team.

"I”ve been playing overseas, so my family and friends haven”t seen me play in a while. They”re really excited to see me back here in Atlanta. I played in Portugal last season and before that I played in Mexico, Finland, China and Germany," Puckett says. "I”ve seen a lot of different cultures."

Townsend wants fans to connect with the players. To do that, he”s touting the Vision”s local players. In addition to Puckett, three other players, Marcus Sims, Richard Walker and Michael Konanec also played high school basketball in Gwinnett.

 "Our motto is “local players, hometown fans.” Not only do we have guys who have graduated from Gwinnett public schools, but we also have guys from Oglethorpe University, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and other nearby schools," Townsend says. "So we attract local athletes who are looking to go to the next level of the sport."

Konanec is a product of Berkmar High School, where he played before graduating in 1999.

"I had a chance to play for the Vision last year, but unfortunately I hurt my knee and couldn”t play," he says. "It”s nice to be back healthy this season. I”m really happy to be playing in front of my old teammates."

The Vision”s season opened with an away win against the Georgia Gwizzlies. The team took an extended road trip last month but will play its home opener on Jan. 11.

For the first time this season, the team will play seven home games at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth.

"Our focus this year is on the community and we”re doing some really creative initiatives," Townsend says. "Our tag line this year is “Gwinnett”s only professional basketball experience.” "

Townsend”s minor league team was formerly based in DeKalb County, but last season he brought the team”s home games to Suwanee Sports Academy. This year the Vision will play half of their home games at the exhibition hall at Gwinnett Center and half in area high school gyms.

"Gwinnett Center is a nice upgrade for us in terms of giving our fans what they want," he says. "We can provide a family-friendly atmosphere that adults will enjoy, too."

For schedule and ticket information, visit www.atlvision.com or call 770-482-7994.