BATTLE FOR THE TOP OF TBL CENTRAL
Shreveport Mavericks (6-1) at Potawatomi Fire (6-1)
Friday, March 31 • Tipoff 7:00 PM
FireLake Arena, Shawnee, Okla.
Wichita Sky Kings (7-1) at Potawatomi Fire (6-1)
Sunday, April 2 • Tipoff 2:00 PM
FireLake Arena, Shawnee, Okla. • Chick-fil-a Day at the Fire
Listen to the action on KGFF 100.9 FM/1450 AM with the play-by-play voice of Chris Cox on the call.
Watch the action on TBLTV.tv (with paid subscription). Cox’s call is the audio for the live stream for both games.
SHAWNEE, OKLA — The Potawatomi Fire will look to rebound after their first loss of the season, but a tall task awaits them this weekend in Shawnee. The Fire host the defending TBL champions, the Shreveport Mavericks, on Friday night and then the first place Wichita Sky Kings. The Fire captured both regular season meetings last year with the Mavs before falling to the eventual champs in a three-game conference semifinal playoff matchup. The Fire dominated the season-opening matchup with the Mavericks, winning 128-89 in Shreveport. Sunday’s meeting with Wichita will be the first-ever meeting as 2023 is the inaugural season for the Sky Kings, who currently hold first place in the TBL Central Conference.
DANNHOFF ON THE FIRST LOSS
“We played like a fatigued team,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “It’s never easy to play three games in four days, but at the end of the day, Enid played really well and made the plays they needed to make to win the game. Give Enid all the credit — they out-executed us down the stretch.”
NEW CONTROL OF THE FIRE
New head coach Mark Dannhoff was hired last summer to lead the Potawatomi Fire. He’s already led the Fire to six wins to open the 2023 season and helped establish them as a marquee team and top contender in the TBL. In his first season as a professional coach, Dannhoff guided the Enid Outlaws to a regular season Central Conference Championship and a first-round bye in the TBL Playoffs with a 20 – 4 win–loss record (83% winning percentage). The Outlaws advanced to the Central Conference Finals only to fall short in the third game of the best of 3 series. Finishing the season 23-6 (79% winning percentage). In addition to having a very exciting, fast-paced, and explosive offense, the Outlaws finished first in the conference for the fewest points allowed per game and tied for sixth overall out of forty-four teams in the TBL during the regular season. Prior to joining the professional ranks, Dannhoff had 30-plus years of basketball experience under his wing. He has been an assistant on eight Division I collegiate coaching staffs, including Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Georgia State, and Tulane. He has coached more than 70 players who have gone on to the pro level.
THE MVP MUNSON
The 2022 TBL Most Valuable Player Deshawn Munson continues his stellar play from a season ago. Munson currently averages 20 points, 12.3 rebounds (5th in TBL), and seven assists (7th in TBL) per game through seven games this season. Though he’s yet to record a triple-double in 2023, he hasn’t needed to because the Fire have significantly more options this year. He already set a Fire team record with 22 rebounds vs Rockwall in early March. Munson returned for unfinished business with the Fire after spurning multiple offers to sign elsewhere in the offseason. The 6-4 guard was First Team All-TBL, First Team All-Central Conference, and a midseason TBL All-Star. “Mr. Triple Double” had 12 triple-doubles and 21 double-doubles in 2022. He averaged 25.8 points (5th in TBL), 10.6 rebounds, 9.4 assists (tied-1st) and 2.6 steals (3rd), and ranked in the top 20 for TBL in all four categories. He was the only player in TBL to average 25 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists per game.
GUY IS THE GUY
Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff, who coached the Enid Outlaws in 2022, was followed to the Fire by several former players including Daylon “Chuck” Guy and Kierre “K.D.” Moore. Guy was outstanding for the rival Outlaws in 2022, earning First Team All-TBL, First Team TBL All-Central Conference, and was a finalist for TBL MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-0 guard averaged 21 points, 9.4 assists, and 2.7 steals while helping Enid to a regular season championship. Guy has not missed a beat with his new Fire team in 2023, tying with Moore and Lyle Hexom for second highest scorer on the team with 15.4 points each. Guy also averages a team-best 8.4 assists (2nd in TBL) and 3.6 steals (4th in TBL) while also grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game.
K.D. Moore was an underrated pickup, providing energized defense and scoring. Moore has started every Fire game and ties for second on the team in scoring (15.4 ppg), and also averages 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game which is right in line for did for Enid in 2022. He averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals for the Outlaws. Two other key members of the 2022 Outlaws, Ricky Artis II and Darin Johnson, will join the Fire later this season, following the completion of their overseas pro ball contracts.
TJ IS TOUGH
Starting big man Terry “T.J.” Maston goes for 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Maston and Moore are tied for 8th in TBL with a 60% field goal percentage. Maston, who earned the 2017-18 Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year with the Baylor Bears, signed with the Fire in the offseason after playing last year with Dallas in TBL having also played in the NBA’s G-League (Aqua Caliente-LA Clippers) and in NBL-Canada. He averaged 19.4 points, 7.4 boards, and 1.8 assists per game for the Dallas Skyline in 2022. Unfortunately, Maston wasn’t around long in the Fire’s first loss on Sunday, after being ejected on two quick technicals for arguing a hard foul call. He looks for a return to form with a more composed and focused effort in this weekend’s games.
HEX ON YOU
Lyle Hexom was another big-time offseason acquisition for the Fire. Hexom is currently recording 15.4 points (tied 2nd on Fire) and 7.4 rebounds and is shooting 41.5% from outside. He was the 2022 TBL Defensive Player of the Year (for Beaumont) after averaging 22.6 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals. Hexom was also First Team TBL All-Central Conference, a TBL All-Star, and was second in TBL in total rebounds (12.6) and first in defensive rebounds (10.8).
NEWEST FACE ON THE FIRE
Paul Harrison, who joined the Fire last week prior to Thursday’s home game with Enid, has averaged 10 points and 8.3 rebounds through three games. He paid immediate dividends for the Fire, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in Thursday’s home win over Enid. Harrison was named All-TBL Central Conference Second Team last season, as one of the top players on Shreveport helping them to the TBL title. “Big Paul” averaged 20.4 points and 8 rebounds last season for Shreveport and tallied 36 points in the championship-clinching win over the Albany Patroons.
FIRE GUYS THEN AND NOW
The other returning Fire players from 2022 have continued to make big contributions in 2023. Tevin Foster averages 9.3 points this season. Foster was the Fire’s sixth man and one of the top sixth men in TBL in 2022. He averaged 13.2 points, two rebounds, 1.9 assists, and one steal per game and shot 36% from outside. The versatile swingman Theo Johnson is tallying eight points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 52% (7th in TBL) from outside. Johnson went for 11.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game a year ago, while shooting 41% from beyond the arc.
FIREPOWER IN RESERVE
Je’lon Hornbeak (Long Beach, Calif.) is a new face on the Fire but a familiar face to many in the area, having played for the Oklahoma Sooners and coach Lon Krueger from 2012-14 before finishing at Monmouth (with former Fire forward Mustapha Traore). Hornbeak played for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA G-League from 2017-19. Hornbeak has averaged nearly nine points per game for the Fire while hitting for 32% from outside.
BIG MAN BRAND
The oldest member of the Fire is Chris Brand who is averaging 4.6 points and six rebounds per game. Brand brings a wealth of pro experience to the club having played in Mexico, Indonesia, Bolivia, Spain, Mongolia, Paraguay and Chile.
THE REAL SHAUN
The youngest member of the Fire and true professional rookie, Rashaun Coleman, starred locally for the Oklahoma City University Stars. He averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals for the NAIA school. Coleman averages 4.8 for the Fire in 2023.
Steve Tucker, a veteran of more than 40 years in coaching and nine different professional basketball leagues as well as multiple college levels, serves as head coach and managing general partner of the Mavericks. Tucker has guided multiple franchises in different leagues to championships. Tucker has over 700 wins to his record with nearly 500 of those at the professional level.
The Mavericks are one of the hottest teams in TBL, having won six straight since losing to the Fire in the season opener. Paul Parks, who was a TBL All-Star and First Team All-Central Conference in 2022, is their top scorer again this season, averaging 25.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Parks is one of three Mavs averaging more than 20 points per game. Kadavion Evans is averaging 24 points and six rebounds per game. Evans played for Dannhoff last season in Enid and was originally going to be a member of the Fire this season before deciding to play in his hometown of Shreveport, where he also went to college at LSU-Shreveport. Tyrone Jordan is another returning member of the Mavs’ championship team, and he averages 20.5 points with four rebounds a night.
In addition to Parks and Jordan, the Mavs return four more of their TBL championship team members from a year ago. Patrick “PJ” Meyers is a smaller, but dynamic point guard. Bilal Richardson (6-8, 245) is an inside presence for the team who averages 9 points and four rebounds per game. Josh Montgomery and Tavin Cummings are both forwards, contributing 7.5 points per game.
To replace the loss of Paul Harrison (who returned from Tunisia and recently joined the Fire), Tucker brought in several big men: Jay Hedgeman, Winford Ross-Holmes, and Cedric ‘CJ’ Turman. Hedgeman (11 ppg) and Turman have significant overseas pro basketball experience. Turman just joined the Mavericks this week. New guards for Shreveport include Jeff Boyd (11.1 ppg) and lightning-quick Michael Lenior (5.1 ppg).
Wichita is a new member of TBL in 2023 but has already established itself as a premier franchise. Their roster is loaded with former D-I talent as well as players with extensive overseas pro experience. They have a busy weekend ahead of their Sunday matchup at the Fire, hosting Enid on Friday night before traveling to Little Rock on Saturday and then to Shawnee on Sunday. Sean Flynn is the ‘head wizard’ for the Sky Kings. He has previously been the head basketball coach at Pratt Community College.
Teddy Allen leads the Sky Kings with 27.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Known as “Teddy Buckets”, Allen led 12th-seeded New Mexico State to an upset over 5th-seeded UConn in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The guard is well-traveled, having been at five schools in five years: West Virginia, Wichita State, Western Nebraska CC, Nebraska, and New Mexico State. Allen is one of three New Mexico State Aggies on Wichita, along with Terrell Brown (16 ppg) and Johnny McCants (3.3 ppg).
Other key players for the Sky Kings include 6-10 former West Virginia Mountaineer Brandon Watkins, who has significant overseas pro ball experience and currently averages 12.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. Guards Julian Winton and Charlie Marquardt each average 11.1 points per game. Marquardt helped Enid to the 2021 TBL Championship. Isaac Johnson goes for 10.5 points and nearly six rebounds a game. Jachai Simmons (9.5 ppg), Kam Williams (8.8 ppg) and point guard Derrick Colter (8.6 points and 3.3 assists per game) will also help the Sky Kings put up 114.6 points per game, which ties for 11th best in TBL. (The Fire sit at 121.1 points per game which is fifth).
NEXT UP AFTER THIS WEEKEND
The Fire will break for the 2023 TBL All-Star Weekend April 7-8 in Easton, Pennsylvania. The All-Star rosters will be split into two teams. Team Grant is a combination of the East & West Conferences. Team Blake is a combination of the Midwest & Central Conferences. Blake Gabou is the 11-year-old CEO of JRTBL, while Grant Gabou is the 8-year-old president of JRTBL. The Gabou brothers are the grandsons of Evelyn and David Magley, the heads and owners of TBL as the CEO and President. In addition to the All-Star Game, TBL All-Star Weekend will have a Three-Point Contest, Dunk Contest, Celebrity Game, and JRTBL free clinic. The weekend will be hosted by the TBL’s Lehigh Valley Legends on the campus of Lafayette College.
The next regular season game for the Fire will be Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m. when they host the Oklahoma Panthers. The Oklahoma Panthers were previously known this season as the Southeast Texas Panthers but were forced to fold for financial reasons. The team was relocated and reconstructed in El Reno, Oklahoma. Many of the Panthers’ players have ties to Oklahoma City or played college basketball for schools in the state of Oklahoma.
ABOUT THE FIRE AND THE BASKETBALL LEAGUE
The Potawatomi Fire concluded their first TBL (The Basketball League) season in June 2022, winning 21 of 29 games played including the playoffs. They were 18-6 in the regular season to earn the third seed in the Central Conference portion of the playoffs. They won their first round playoff series before falling in the conference semifinal round. The Fire are the first professional basketball team owned by a Native American tribe (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) in Oklahoma. The Fire compete in the Central Conference of TBL, a men’s professional basketball league, now with nearly 50 teams in over 20 different states across the U.S. and Canada. The Fire organization was named the 2022 winner of the Jim Koch Award as TBL’s Best Ran Business, despite the Fire being a first year franchise. The dance team of the Fire, the Fire Girls, were named Best Dance Team.
The TBL season begins in February and runs through June, concluding with a championship playoff tournament. The players that make up the rosters of the TBL teams are former NCAA (Division I, II or III) or NAIA athletes. Many have played in the NBA or NBA’s developmental G-League as well as professionally overseas for several years and are continuing their careers closer to home or seeking a larger contract in another professional league.
Story by Justin Wollard, with assistance from Chris Cox
Photos by Landon Kidney