MINOR LEAGUE BASKETBALL IN AMERICA
For most Americans, the only levels of basketball they have experience with are youth leagues, college, and NBA. Those who are more into the sport may also follow a European league or two as well. Most don’t know that there is another basketball league being built in America. The Basketball League (TBL) was born in 2018 with eight teams. It was built by David Magley who now stands as the TBL President. Evelyn Magley, his wife, currently holds the position of CEO within the league as well. They played their inaugural season under the moniker, North Atlantic Premier Basketball (NAPB). Going into their second season, they would then rebrand as the TBL and the headquarters were moved to Indiana. The third season was unfortunately cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March, but it has hardly led to an offseason. The TBL has expanded exponentially over the past year to 22 total teams for the 2021 season. To put that in perspective, the NBA only had eight teams when going into their fifth season.
I have had the opportunity to work closely with the Lewisville Leopards over the past few months doing scouting and analytics work. They just wrapped up their own inaugural season in the TBL. The team is run by Dr. Shira Ackerman and coached by Mathis Crowder. They also run Creating Young Minds Academy (CYM). CYM is a development program that was founded in 2011. Adding the Lewisville Leopards to the program has created a pipeline. Similar to the European model, this program offers youth development and a way to access professional play after that developmental period. The Leopards were the youngest team in the TBL this past year as they used it as an opportunity to showcase young talent. Their goal remains to make the TBL more than an end goal for players. They want to make it part of a journey, a developmental league to help players progress and get offers from international teams as well as G League contracts.
One player who has been with the program for over a year, Mike Lenoir, has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft. He finished the TBL season with averages of 24 ppg and 11 apg. Those averages ranked 3rd and 1st in the league respectively. The 19 year old has crafted his own path to the ultimate goal. It also gives a second chance to players. Moses Sundufu was drafted by the Grand Rapids Drive in 2014, but was cut just a few weeks after due to injury. He plays with the Leopards now, looking for opportunities to play internationally. CYM has also opened up opportunities for their athletes to develop in areas off the court. Marcus Brooks, graduate of Dallas Christian College, played with the Leopards last season with averages of 6ppg, 3rpg, and 2apg. He has shown a passion for photography and film, and has started his own film production company, Mindful Filmz. He has gotten an opportunity to hone in on his goals and practice filming. During the CYM summer and fall leagues, Brooks has been in charge of livestreaming the games as well as color commentary.
While most have taken their foot off the gas pedal during the pandemic, the TBL has continued to apply pressure to the industry. With the G League season still up in the air, players from the NBA’s minor league system are looking for an opportunity to continue playing. With over 250+ roster spots available for the 2021 season, the TBL provides more than enough job openings to draw some serious talent to the league. That combined with the CYM basketball operations model of development first can build something special.