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Council to lead Rizers in first ABA campaign
HARVIN COUNCIL IS FLANKED by Palmetto State Rizers co-owners, Devin and Nikia Knox-Lee, after having been named as head coach of the first-year American Basketball Association franchise.

-I (Camden, S.C.) sports editor
When he purchased the rights to the Palmetto State Rizers’ American Basketball Association franchise, Kershaw County native Devin Lee made a point in trying to keep the operation local.
As it turned out, he did not have to look far in searching for the first head coach of the franchise.
With the first of two rounds of open tryouts looming, Lee and his wife and Rizers’ co-owner, Nikita Knox-Lee, announced the hiring of former Camden High and Jacksonville University basketball standout Harvin Council as their head coach.
Council has been active in coaching AAU basketball teams featuring players from Kershaw County while also having mentored young student-athletes. He said he relishes the opportunity to test his skills on a bigger stage.
“I know that it’s going to be a challenge. I’ve never coached at the professional level before but, I understand the game and know what it’s all about,” Council said. “I’ve been around the game of basketball long enough to understand most things about it.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Lee, who played high school basketball at North Central prior to graduating from the school in 2003, said when he first bought the franchise and talked to friends and colleagues from in and around Kershaw County about needing a coach, more than one person referred him to Council. Lee then contacted Council and the pair met for the first time in early June. Lee said he was sold on Council being the right man for the job following the interview.
“His name was the first one that was brought to me and I’ve heard some great things about him,” Lee said of Council. “We kept in touch with him and he was very interested in it. His attitude and everything else fits in with what we’re looking for. He was my number one choice.”
One of, if not the leading scorer in Camden High School men’s basketball history, Council signed on with Jacksonville following his high school career and played for head coach Tates Locke as a member of the Dolphins’ program.
Council’s two sons have followed in their father’s athletic footsteps. His oldest son, Jay, is a rising senior basketball player at Belmont Abbey College and was a key figure in Camden High School’s run to the 2008-09 AAA state basketball championship. Josh, the youngest of the pair, is a rising senior at Camden High School and is the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback as well as having earned All-Region 6-AAA honors in basketball last season.
Council said he became interested in the Rizers’ head coaching position soon after learning about the first-year franchise, which is expected to play their games in the Columbia area. His knowledge of the game of basketball and his many connections in and around the Midlands were two factors which aided his cause in securing the job.
Council said he planned on getting back into coaching at one point. This opportunity came at the right time in his career.
“I got interested in it when I first heard about it and when Devin first asked me about it,” Council said of his pursuit of the job.
“I’ve been coaching young kids in this area for awhile now and working with kids, period. I got out of coaching for a year or two, just so that I could keep up with my boys, but I always wanted to get back into it. I just didn’t know how I would get back into it or, at what level I was going to get back into it. But when this opportunity became available, I jumped on it.”
Council jumped right into the fire when he oversaw the first round of tryouts on June 30-July 1. A second round will be held July 28 and 29 in Columbia. The steps are the first in putting a team together for their first game, a non-ABA event, the Legends Classic at Claflin College in Orangeburg on Aug. 25.
“Right now, we need a little bit of everything because we’re just starting. We need it all, one through five,” Council said with a smile as he talked about the upcoming tryouts.
“We need centers, small forwards, power forwards, shooting guards and point guards. We’re going out there with that mindset. We’re going to take everybody out there and take them though some agility drills, shooting drill, defensive stuff and just get an overall look at them. Then, hopefully, we can play some five-on-five and let them get up and down the court and see who can run the court, who can’t and who can do certain things out there.
“After our first couple of days, we’ll have a better idea as to what type of talent we’ll be working with.”
The pool of available talent will include players whom Council has seen and coaching against before on the AAU level and who are now eligible to play in the ABA. He also plans on spreading the word as to the Palmetto State Rizers at a Pro-Am basketball league to be played at Eau Claire High School beginning July 23. The circuit will include former college players as well as players who play professionally overseas.
“I have a roster and a list of those guys and a lot of them are interested in trying out for this team,” Council said of the Pro-Am league in which his son, Jay, will be playing. “A lot of those names are ones that I know. That’s going to help me out, a lot, because I have either seen them play or know them.”
In the days after taking the Rizers’ job, Council immersed himself in trying to make heads or tails out of the ABA rule book. The one ruling he was trying to get familiar with was the 3-D Rule, in which when the 3-D light goes on two-point baskets are worth three points, three-pointers count as four among other changes during the time.
“I’ve been looking at those rules and studying them and I’ve been saying, ‘Man, what is this?’” he said with a laugh. “Those are the kinds of things that you have to strategize for and that might come up in your (game) planning. I’m still learning them and getting used to them but they are different.
“It’s going to add to the game. It’s going to make the game fun. I’m not on top of them, yet, but I’m sure as things starts to progress a little, that I’ll be on top of them.”
Regardless of the rule, which will go into effect at certain point(s) of a contest, Council said that basketball is basketball and his philosophy will not change from what it has always been in his career. What Rizer fans can expect to see under Council is a fast-paced, 94-foot game.
“My style has always been to get the ball up and down the court,” Council said of his coaching style and preference. “A layup is a lot easier than a 15-foot jump shot. I’d rather get layups than shoot outside shots.
“I know that you’re going to have to have a set offense for your players, but my philosophy is that I like to run up and down the court. But, we’ll have to see what our personnel is like before we have to make that decision as to how we’re going to play.”