2023 OPENING NIGHT
Potawatomi Fire (0-0) at Shreveport Mavericks (0-0)
Wednesday, March 1 • Tipoff 7:05 PM
Gold Dome – Centenary College, Shreveport, La.
Listen to the action on KGFF 100.9 FM/1450 AM with the play-by-play voice Chris Cox on the call.
Watch the action on TBLTV.tv (with paid subscription).
Stream and announcers are provided by Shreveport Mavericks.
In 2022, the Potawatomi Fire played their first-ever game season as members of The Basketball League. While it was a successful season for the new franchise filled with many accomplishments including the TBL MVP, they ultimately fell short of the ultimate goal. The offseason for the Fire brought significant change including hiring a new coach and nearly wholly rebuilding the roster with just three returnees from the previous team, with the goal of winning the TBL Championship. The team and their fans will get an early test of those big changes as the Fire open their second season on the road at the defending champions, the Shreveport Mavericks. The 2023 regular season tips off for the Fire with a 7:05 pm start from the Gold Dome in Shreveport on the campus of Centenary College tonight, (Wednesday, March 1). 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.
NEW FACE IN CONTROL
New head coach Mark Dannhoff was hired last summer to lead the Potawatomi Fire. 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-three 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. Dannhoff is joined on the Fire coaching staff by Justin Reynolds, Emmanuel Toney, and Brad Walck.
RETURNING TO THE FIRE
The 2022 TBL Most Valuable Player Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) returns for unfinished business with the Fire after spurning multiple offers to sign elsewhere. 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.
The other returning Fire players from 2022 will play huge roles in 2023: Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) was the Fire’s sixth man and one of the top sixth men in TBL in 2022. He averaged 13.2 points, 2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.0 steals per game and shot 36% from outside. Foster had 18 points, five rebounds, and three steals in the exhibition game last week. Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif. / Liberty) rejoined the club last Wednesday. The versatile swingman averaged 11.7 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 41% from outside in multiple stints with the Fire in 2022.
NEW FACES FOR THE FIRE
New 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 (Ft. Worth, Texas / Tarleton State) 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. In the exhibition last week, Guy nearly notched a triple-double for his new team, with 11 points, a team-high 10 assists, and seven rebounds. K.D. Moore (Paris, Texas / East Central) is an underrated pickup, providing energized defense and scoring. He averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals for Enid in 2022. Moore was also strong across the board vs Tri-State last Tuesday with 10 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Two other key members of the Outlaws, Ricky Artis II and Darin Johnson, will join the Fire later this season, following the completion of their overseas pro ball contracts.
Newcomer T.J. Maston led the new-look Fire to a dominant, yet balanced destruction of the visiting Tri-State 66ers, with the home Fire squad running away with a 137-88 victory in last week’s exhibition matchup. Eight of ten Fire players scored in double figures and all ten men currently on the roster had at least five points and two rebounds. Maston, who earned the 2017-18 Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year with the Baylor Bears, tallied a team-high 26 points and shared the team high with 13 rebounds. Maston (DeSoto, Texas) 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.
Lyle Hexom (Omaha, Neb. / Peru State) was another big-time offseason acquisition for the Fire. Hexom 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. He 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). He scored more than 20 points twelve times and went for more than 30 on three occasions. In the exhibition, he recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. with three blocks while altering several others, to go along with his work on the glass (10 of 13 boards were defensive rebounds).
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 was the top gun from outside last Tuesday, knocking down five three-pointers for 15 points.
The oldest member of the Fire is a recent addition to the team and impressed the coaches with his hustle in the exhibition game. “I was also pleased with Chris Brand (Starkville, Miss. / Alcorn State). He was on the floor two or three times, diving for loose balls,” said Dannhoff. Brand had 16 points and 7 rebounds in the exhibition and brings a wealth of pro experience to the club having played in Mexico, Indonesia, Bolivia, Spain, Mongolia, Paraguay, and Chile.
Forward A.J. Turner (Mt. Clemens, Mich.) brings D-I experience (Boston College and Northwestern) as well as a strong pro game, having played in Austria, Germany, and Luxembourg. He had five points, four boards, and three blocks in the exhibition.
The youngest member of the Fire and true professional rookie, Rashaun Coleman (Houston, Texas), 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.
DANNHOFF ON THE EXHIBITION CONTEST
“First off, it was really nice to play against somebody other than ourselves. We’ve been going hard for two weeks, with two-a-days and things like that. It gets old playing against yourself,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “There were so many positives. There are obviously things we need to work on and refine. But I really love the way we pushed the ball. I thought in the first half, our defense was outstanding and challenged every shot. We sat down and guarded. Our switches were good. And on offense, we were moving the ball, sharing the ball. We were getting assists one right after another. We have really good guard play and obviously, T.J. Maston did a good job. Everybody did a great job executing. For the first night, it was a pretty good night.”
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 return five of their TBL championship team members from a year ago. Paul Parks, who averaged 24.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 2022, was a TBL All-Star and First Team All-Central Conference. Patrick “PJ” Meyers is a smaller, but dynamic point guard. Bilal Richardson (6-8, 245) is an inside presence for the team. Josh Montgomery and Tavin Cummings are both 6-5 small forwards.
To replace the loss of All-Central Conference Second Team member Paul Harrison (who signed with the Fire and will join the team in April), Tucker brought in several big men: Chris Davenport, Jay Hedgeman, and Winford Ross-Holmes. Hedgeman and Davenport have significant overseas pro basketball experience. Also new to the Mavericks this year are guards Tim Quarterman, Jeff Boyd, and Michael Lenoir as well as forward Jarrell Taylor. The big name in that group is Quarterman, a 6-6 guard who went to LSU from 2013-16 and played in the NBA for the Portland Trail Blazers (17 games) and a very brief stint with the Houston Rockets (3 games). He has also played for multiple NBA G-League teams as well as professionally in China, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico, and Macedonia.
DANNHOFF ON FACING THE DEFENDING CHAMPS TO OPEN THE SEASON
“Obviously the competition changes quite a bit (from last week). You’re talking about the defending champions. They’re well-coached, and they play hard. A very talented team. I know they’ve gone out and loaded up again. It’s never easy on the road, but it’s especially never easy playing a really good team on the road. They’re experienced and they’re championship-experienced. We’ve got some things to work on and some things to clean up. We’re going to go down there and compete.”
NEXT UP AFTER TONIGHT
The Fire will travel to Texas for a weekend night game versus the Rockwall 7ers. The game will tip off at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 5 at a still-to-be-determined location. You can hear Chris Cox on the call on KGFF or watch the game with a subscription to TBLTV.tv
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 • Photo by Chantal Dubois