SHAWNEE, OKLA — Rivalry. Reunion. Revenge.
It doesn’t matter what you call it, to the Potawatomi Fire it is business. Next game on the schedule. For several members of the 2023 Fire team and coaching staff, Thursday night marks the first meeting against their former club, the Enid Outlaws. For players Chuck Guy and K.D.Moore and for coaches Mark Dannhoff and Emmanuel Toney, it will be different. While they may not admit it publicly, it will likely feel different playing against their former team for the first time. A bit of extra emotion and energy for what promises to be a rough and tough battle against the in-state and Central Conference rivals, part of a busy three-game stretch for Potawatomi this weekend.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on KGFF 100.9 FM/1450 AM- Shawnee’s Hometown Radio Station with Chris Cox on the call. Cox’s call can also be heard on the Fire live stream, which can be seen on TBLTV.tv with a paid subscription. The Fire’s homestand will close with Little Rock on Saturday night before the Fire return the visit to Enid on Sunday afternoon.
If the rivalry of Thursday’s game wasn’t enough, the Fire added a major component this week, with the arrival of Paul Harrison. The 6-9, 270 lb. post player played last TBL season with the Shreveport Mavericks and was the TBL Finals MVP helping the Mavs win over Albany in the TBL Finals. “Big Paul” averaged 20.4 points and 8 rebounds last season for Shreveport and tallied 36 points in the championship-clinching win over the Patroons. “We’re extremely excited to have Paul here with us,” said head coach Mark Dannhoff. “We were excited back last summer when we first started talking to him but were unsure if we could even get him to come here. (Fire GM) David Qualls did an excellent job communicating with him and I had a chance to visit with him over the phone. The more I talked, you could feel that this was someplace he wanted to be. He brings more depth and is a completely different type of post player. He’s a game-changer.”
Harrison knows he’s in a great situation and just wants to fit in with his new team. “I just plan on getting in where I fit in and getting my job done,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to slow us down. I’m just happy to be back (in the U.S.) playing basketball.” Harrison recently completed a stint in Tunisia and considered an offer in Canada before coming to the Fire. He actually had committed in late 2022 to the Fire and played and won with several current members of the Fire in the FireLake Fall Shootout in October.
The Fire are fresh off a record-setting performance last Friday, when they set seven new team records, demolishing the Rockwall 7ers, 152-96. Included in the new team marks were points in a game (152), largest margin of victory (56), assists (38), steals (16), turnovers forced (27), field goals made (56), and field goals attempted (105). The Fire lead TBL in scoring (136.7 ppg), and rebounding (21.7 offensive rebounds per game, 45.7 defensive rebounds per game), are second in the league in assists (29 per game), and second in two-point made (39.7). They are the only unbeaten team out of 49 clubs in The Basketball League.
The reigning TBL MVP Deshawn Munson leads the Fire, with 21.3 points and 14.7 rebounds per game. Munson also serves 6.3 assists per game. Chuck Guy is next at 19.3 ppg and leads the club with 11 assists per night. 2022 TBL Defensive Player of the Year Lyle Hexom is next at 18.7 ppg and 7 rpg. Former Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year T.J. Maston comes in at 17.7 points and 11.7 boards per game. The fifth Fire starter, K.D. Moore averages 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Also in double figures are the Fire’s sixth man and Lawton grad Tevin Foster with 12.3 points. Just missing the double figures mark is former OU Sooner Je’lon Hornbeak with 9.7 points per game. The lone rookie on the Fire who recently played at Oklahoma City University, guard Rashaun Coleman, averages 7 points per game off the bench.
SCOUTING THE ENID OUTLAWS
The Enid Outlaws were seeking a new coach in the offseason and turned to a familiar face to their fans. Ed Corporal, who guided the Outlaws to the TBL title in 2021, returns to the sidelines for another go-around. A pair of former Oklahoma Sooners are key pieces for the Outlaws: Ethan Chargois, who prepped at Union in Tulsa, and played in college for SMU and OU, leads Enid with 22.8 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. His former OU teammate, Marvin Johnson, is second with 18.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and leads the team with 4.3 assists per game. Shawn Stith Jr. is third on the club with 17.7 points, while also grabbing 8.7 boards per game.
SCOUTING THE LITTLE ROCK LIGHTNING
The closest game on the schedule so far for the Fire in 2023 was a 14-point win over Little Rock in Arkansas on March 11, with the Fire winning 128-114. The Lightning are led in scoring by Tremont Robinson at 19 points per game. Percell Washington was All-TBL Central Conference Second Team last year and averages 18 points and 15 boards per night. Ryan Barnes averages 11 points and five rebounds.
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, was named Best Dance Team.
The TBL season begins in late 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 and 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 • Photo by Landon Kidney