Jim Gazzolo column: Rockets give LC a boost

Published 9:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2022

For the second time in six years the Houston Rockets are going to spend part of their training camp in Lake Charles.

Starting Tuesday the NBA franchise will practice on the McNeese State campus.

The Rockets were last in town in 2018 when they helped open the arena before it was completely finished.

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This time the team returns with a new cast of players and will workout in not only a finished facility but one that has been rebuilt.

Of course the team’s owner, Tilman Fertitta, has good reason to bring his team back to town. He is also the owner of the Golden Nugget Resort and Casino, located just a few miles from campus.

So this is a nice way for him to cross promote two of his businesses. It also helps to shine the light back on Lake Charles for a few days, which is good after a couple of years dealing with hurricanes and their aftermath.

As for McNeese, it is just the latest in getting a little more attention on both the athletic program and university itself.

Granted, it is not the biggest deal in the world to have NBA players practicing in your gym, but it is better than not having them here.

If nothing else, it shows that McNeese’s facilities are worthy of hosting the game’s best players. Not all schools can say that.

“I think it’s a huge honor to be able to host the Houston Rockets,” said McNeese Athletic Director Heath Schroyer. “I think it speaks volumes for the Legacy Center and the community of Lake Charles.”

Schroyer said he hopes he can help make this an annual appointment with the team.

“Becoming the yearly training camp location of the Rockets has been a huge goal of mine since becoming the AD a few years ago,” he said.

The Rockets have also helped the McNeese basketball program. Just last Tuesday night the team donated items for an auction.

Having an NBA team take interest in a college program is never a bad thing no matter what the reason.

“For our players it is a great opportunity to be around NBA players and see the way they work and go about their business,” Cowboys head basketball coach John Aiken said. “We get a chance to see how they go about practice and rub elbows with guys from the top of their profession. Not everybody gets to do that.”

The Rockets have been a help to Lake Charles in the past.

After Hurricance Laura hit in August of 2020, the team and Fertitta family distributed essential items to area families. It helped with relief efforts after the catastrophic storm.

While the players are not likely to interact much with the public, it is a sign that things are getting fixed and starting to return to the pre-storm days.

It also shows that McNeese is doing everything it can, and willing to take help from all comers, to become a better athletic program.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at jimgazzolo@yahoo.com