After weeks of silence, talk again has resurfaced about the prospect of a minor league basketball team coming to La Crosse.

Larry Crain Sr., an Arkansas businessman, plans to visit

La Crosse later this week about potentially relocating his NBA Development League team, the Arkansas RimRockers, to the La Crosse Center, according to Ron Ekker, the former president and one-time coach of the now-defunct La Crosse Catbirds.

Ekker confirmed Tuesday night that Crain is interested in moving his NBA D-League team to La Crosse in time for the 2007-2008 season.

A message left at Crain’s Little Rock, Ark., home was not returned Tuesday night.

Ekker, however, said Crain and several associates planned to fly to La Crosse later this week to look over the La Crosse Center and hold exploratory meetings about relocating his team.

Ekker, who has served as a point man for several potential investors in a possible La Crosse NBA D-League team, said the Catbirds of the Continental Basketball Association came to La Crosse in much the same fashion in 1985 from Louisville, Ky.

“I have been working on this (a D-League team for La Crosse) for three months. This (development) came up in the last week to 10 days,” said Ekker from his Cleveland, Ohio, home. “There will be a group of gentlemen flying in. He (Crain) would like to get some local investors. He is interested to see the interest level of La Crosse.

“It’s the same story on how we got the Catbirds. I have done this before. It’s not like I have to learn how to do this.”

Talk of a La Crosse team in the NBA D-League — started in 2001 to help younger players develop their skills in hopes of someday making an NBA roster — had cooled in the past month, as a potential majority owner decided not to pursue a possible expansion franchise here, Ekker said.

The RimRockers, a former American Basketball Association team, joined the NBA’s Development League in 2006. They play in the 18,000-seat, $80 million Alltel Arena in Little Rock, Ark., and last year finished last in the six-team Eastern Conference of the NBA Development League with a 16-34 record.

Ekker declined to say why the RimRockers potentially were looking to relocate.

“I can’t answer that. I would let Larry answer that,” Ekker said.

Crain already has contacted the NBA D-League officials, and the league looks favorably on La Crosse, Ekker said. The NBA D-League had 12 teams in 2006-07, but has since added Fort Wayne, Ind.; Des Moines; Orem, Utah; and Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

Normally it can take a year or more to set up a team, but if Crain decides to relocate his franchise, it would be done in a matter of months, Ekker said.

“We have the (necessary) things put together if everything goes right,” Ekker said.

Jeff Brown can be reached at (608) 791-8403, or e-mail at jbrown@lacrossetribune.com.

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