Georgia Blazers basketball team to play in Orlando, city not paying for trip

Three boys basketball teams that were part of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department’s controversial Innovative Sports Program are scheduled to play this week in Orlando.

Two city employees — Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams and Herman Porter — plan to accompany the team to Florida despite being on administrative leave while the Columbus police investigate the department, according to the city manager’s office.

No city funds or vehicles are being used for the trip, Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin said in a e-mail response to questions about the trip.

“It is my understanding that the City of Columbus has pulled all sponsorship from the Georgia Blazers summer teams,” said Montgomery, Ala., attorney Don Jackson, who is representing Adams and Porter. “The Blazers are, however, planning to continue to compete for the remainder of the summer.”

They will accomplish that with private funds, Jackson said. The elite under-17 team, coached by Adams, has been sponsored by Nike since 2006.

That team features one of the top high school prospects in the nation, Greenville High senior Kentavious Caldwell, who committed to play for the University of Georgia. That team, which was made up of 12 out of town players and one Columbus athlete, has played in Virginia, Texas and California this year.

East Marietta Basketball, Inc., a non-profit corporation based in Metro Atlanta, handles the Nike sponsorship for the Blazers.

“As with most travel teams, they rely heavily on private contributions to support their efforts,” Jackson said. “The contribution from Nike to East Marietta is such a private contribution.”

Adams, Porter and part-time employee Bryant Thomas will make the trip. Thomas will be on his own time, Goodwin said.

“No city travel funds/per diem or resource support is being used to support this travel,” Goodwin wrote.

Jackson said he was unsure if Adams and Porter would make the trip.

“However, in light of the fact that they have been placed on administrative leave for no apparent reason, I see no reason as to why they would not,” Jackson said.

The teams will be playing in the AAU Super Showcase, one of the top events in the country where elite players and teams are on display for college coaches. The event, which starts Wednesday, will be held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.

In addition to the Nike-sponsored elite team, an under-14-year-old team and an under-15 team are scheduled to play.

On June 8, the city manager’s office concurred with a recommendation from Parks and Recreation to make the Blazers’ travel teams independent from the city.

The city has provided practice facilities, paid entry fees, funded travel to and from tournaments and used city employees as coaches of the Blazers teams. The Innovative Sports Program fields teams in boys and girls basketball, track and field and boxing.

In fiscal year 2009, the city spent more than $129,000 on the program -- more than $85,000 of that was on out-of-town travel. In the most recent fiscal year that ended June 30, the city spent more than $57,000 on the program.

Helping young athletes is what motivates Adams and Porter, their attorney said.

“Tony Adams and Herman Porter are committed to providing opportunities to youngsters,” Jackson said. “That commitment remains strong.”