Get to know the name Chris Sodom. He’s just one of the names who can make a huge impact during the ’24 TBL season.

Speedway, Indiana — For four days in early February, overseas vets and guys taking a deep shot at beginning their professional playing careers called Speedway, Indiana and the three maple basketball courts at The Factory at D1 Training home.

In a matter of days, 76 player would find out if they’d have a new zip code for the start of the year with all TBL teams getting two selections coming out of the Draft Combine weekend. Guys were looking to secure a training spot invite and possibly more. They came from Redmond, Washington, Los Angeles California, and Delaware by way of a trip that began years ago in Nigeria. Teams simply were aiming to leave Indiana with a steal and potential prospects for the upcoming 2024 TBL season. For some teams, they got exactly that and then some. Doubling as an Annual Meeting for Team Market Owners, coaches and team personnel from across the country, the few hectic days in the midwest gave everyone a fresh start at chasing the TBL Championship prior to full training camps officially getting underway.

Here is where you could step Inside The Combine…

Thursday, Day 1 — Growing The Game For The Greater Good

On Thursday, the brand spanking new conference room at the Hampton Inn Suites was transformed into TBL headquarters complete with a media interview room. The daily sessions covered the finer details and dedication it takes to make a successful TBL season and experience happen. The TBL would know. They’ve grown from an eight-team start-up league predicated on building community off the court and providing an opportunity for aspiring pros, to becoming a competitive pro league that proudly sits behind the NBA and NBA GLeague in North America. Founded through faith and family by NBA alum, David Magley, and history-making CEO wife Evelyn Magley, the TBL has come a very long way since holding the first TBL combine and draft at a one-day event at Shelbyville High School on the other side of Indianapolis.

Back then, teams picked business cards out of a hat to determine the order of selections.

This year, the entire weekend drew a couple of hundred young men and was streamed live on TBL TV and social media channels.

Not too bad for a league that was started with a $20 dollar investment and a prayer to be different. Each season, that answer becomes more clear. Take the 2023 season for example. Early on the Shreveport Mavericks appeared primed to repeat as champs from the 2022 season. The Albany Patroons also had contender written all over them. St. Louis put teams away during the playoffs and gutted out tough wins. Yet, it was a group of guys from Shawnee, Oklahoma that shocked the league and ultimately raised a banner at Fire Lake Arena.

The day also gave the chance for current TBL guard, Rze Culbreath, to share his compelling story about overcoming the odds after previously attending the TBL Combine. Between the skills and drills, and intense games, Rze earned a contract to play professionally with the Tri-State Admirals after playing college basketball at Garett University and the University of Pikeville. The Winchester, Virginia native now runs the point for the second-year Virginia Valley Vipers, while also taking time to invest in giving back away from basketball.

“Everyday I’m working on ways to become a better individual and provide opportunities for the next generation of young athletes. I understand how important it is to be active in the community and try to be a positive role model,” Rze has said about his TBL journey.

Friday, Day 2 — “Your Job Is To Be Available To Your Players.”

TMO for the Salem Capitals, Jason Conrad, has been here before.

His own testimony is one of those tall heartbreaking tales that makes you easily want to root for the guy.

Powerful. It’s the one word that comes to mind during the recounting. Spend a few minutes with the 7-footer who began his college career at Portland State University before transferring to Chico State and you’ll see why. Kind and comfortable describing his struggles with mental health and suicide prevention, Jason raises the awareness in both of these crucial categories for athletes and humanity in general.

“Your job is to be available to your players, so they can share about what they are going through,” Jason told a full room of fellow Team Market Owners.

Minutes later, David Magley applauded the sentiment and offered a timely reminder while looking forward to a busy night that entailed “The Interview”, a speed-dating model that provided the stage for teams to warmly welcome players to an evening of networking and getting to know each other before stepping on the basketball court. As you can imagine, for young men straight out of high school and all levels of college it can be a daunting experience. But if guys are willing to travel to Speedway, Indiana for a few days perhaps they are ready to go a little further depending if they make a good first impression with a team.

“This weekend, it’s important for these guys to feel relevant. When the season gets started, this should be our best year yet,” Magley suggested.

Following partnership presentations by Julie Korioth of mental health sports app, Nui and Peter Matthews of the Ohio Equity Center discussing opportunities for TBL teams to partner in a 2024 pilot program with HBCU schools and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in hosting TBL games. The five teams projected to take part in the proposed program for 2024 include the Cincinnati Warriors (Central State University), Rocket City Flyers (Lane College), Coastal Georgia Buccaneers (Savannah State University), Jacksonville 95ers (Edward Waters University), and Gulf Coast Lions (Spring Hill College). Additional programming was also proposed with non SIAC schools in year one to host combine programming with Little Rock Lightening (Philander Smith), Shreveport Mavericks (Wiley University), and the Raleigh Firebirds (Bennett College).


If there’s ever an award given for “The First Family of Basketball”, the Magley family should easily be a lock to take home the honors.

It’s generational and it extends well beyond David Magley, who often downplays being “Indiana Mr. Basketball” out of LaSalle High School and drafted out of Kansas to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers in 1982 (the Cavs were fresh off a year where they tied the lowest winning percentage in franchise history) as the fifth pick in the second round of the same draft that produced two Naismith Hall of Famers (James Worthy and Dominque Wilkins), and former NBA All-Stars Fat Lever, Sleepy Floyd, Ricky Pierce, and Mark Eaton. His lone season in the Association as a rookie, “Mags” appeared in 14 games (12 points, 2 steals) that eventually saw Cleveland finish 23-59 in 1983. After being cut from the Cavs, the 6’8 forward played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) for the Wyoming Wildcatters, Albany Patroons, and Tampa Bay Thrillers. David became commissioner of the National Basketball League of Canada, later launched the National American Premier Basketball League (NAPBL), before the formation of The Basketball League (TBL) in 2019.

Magley’s Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame plaque says it best:

Played for Hall of Famer George Griffith at South Bend LaSalle High School, 1978 Academic All State, Parade All American and Mr. Basketball…1982 Kansas University leading scorer, rebounder and free throw shooter, while being voted “Most Inspirational”, Captain and MVP…1st Team All Big 8, 1st Team Academic All American, Scholar Athlete of the Year for the Big 8 Conference…played professionally for the Cleveland Cavaliers (28th pick of the draft),  ’83-’84 CBA Champions Albany Patroons and in Europe…currently coach of the Bradenton Christian School, in Florida, where they have had 10 straight 20 win seasons and four Final Four appearances.

But it’s pretty clear that the skills and passion for being a true professional resonates with David and Evelyn’s daughter, Jennifer Magley.

This year, Jennifer is showing off her crossover game after years of excelling on a different court. A former standout student-athlete, Jennifer is a proud mother of two, business woman, author, speaker, consultant and social media influencer. An IMG Sports Academy and University of Florida Gator alum, she earned #1 rankings as a singles champion in college, was a four-time All-American, a recipient of the Arthur Ashe Jr., Sports Scholar, and a SEC Good Works awards winner. As a member of TEAM USA, Jennifer represented the United States in over 14 countries and competed professionally on the WTA Tour before being named Associate Head Coach at Wichita State University and becoming the nation’s youngest NCAA Division I head coach at Florida Gulf Coast University at 23 years old. Now, Jennifer wears the title of Chief Brand Officer of The Basketball League (and the Basketball Super League).

And then there is the future of the TBL and the inclusion of promoting the JR. TBL.

As it was announced last year, the creation of the Jr. TBL would allow for the league to place a focus once again on community, programs, and investing in the stars of tomorrow through free basketball clinics, camps, and events. The Jr. TBL is led by Blake and Grant Gabou who serve as CEO and President of The Basketball League’s Junior Initiative with the two brothers helping close out Friday afternoon’s meetings by happily encouraging those in the room to take part in Jr. TBL programs this season.

The family feel is also felt in the TBL trophy presented at the end of the year.

“The Lillie” as its affectionally called, is named after Evelyn’s 91-year old mother, Lillie Mae Greer, who remains TBL’s biggest fan and a champion herself in life. She will be happy to know that once again, “Lillie” has a bunch of talented young basketball players chasing her this season.


Friday Night, Day 2 — “The Interview” Opens Eyes and Ears

It’s pretty impressive how a small group of people can turn around a hotel conference room into a space to conduct “The Interview”, but between TBL personnel and hotel staff busily setting up tables for teams and players to talk basketball and life for a few hours. A jazz quartet set up quickly in the corner and played smoothly as a smattering of players eagerly arrived ahead of schedule and enjoyed finger food. TBL teams reps were also some of the first to get to the gathering.

Champion and Finals MVP, Chuck Guy, along with Fire assistant coach Emmanuel “Eman” Toney, flew in along with head coach Mark Danhoff and General Manager David Qualls. The foursome also brought some shiny hardware with them with the table size “Lillie” Championship Trophy, and the two big gold rings that hung around Guy’s neck — one ring for the TBL title, and other for the lockdown guard rightfully earning co-MVP honors of the playoffs along with teammate Deshawn Munson. If a chance to speak to a room full of professional basketball teams and coaches wouldn’t convince these players what’s on the table with the Draft Combine, perhaps the trophy and rings from the Fire would. Close to 90 players attended “The Interview” on Friday night and received a warm welcome and round of applause before players began sitting down with teams and exchanging information about who they were, where they were from, and their own personal aspirations in basketball. A number of first year teams carefully took their time with pleasantries while more seasoned teams and organizations cut right to the chase.

“Listen, we’re the most storied franchise in here. We’ve got a great city, nice arena, housing, and we have won….I was coached by Phil Jackson, that’s who I learned from…and we’ve sent guys on to play in the NBA. We have a lot of guys coming back this season…but we want to know about you. Who are you and where are you from?,” Albany Patroons head coach, Derrick Rowland started.

For the next 3 hours, that became both the opening or closing to quick conversation with players making the rounds from team to team and table to table. Interesting enough, there were also a handful of guys who competed at the Combine last year and played in the TBL in 2023, including guard Caleb Vaughn (Kalamazoo/Owensboro). The room also was the perfect setting to pitch swapping draft picks or possibly move up in the selection process, with teams eyeing the next two days of combine workouts, games, and the pending draft process.

“I want teams to know that I am a person of character and that I bring it on the defensive end…I’m here to show people what I can do on the court when given the opportunity,” said Isaiah Darrett, a grad of Florida Memorial University who arrived from Fort Myers wearing a fresh blue floral suite.

Friday night Isaiah was hands-down the best dressed.

At the Combine, he anxiously wanted to look as sharp.

“I wouldn’t so I am nervous, I am just excited to get things going on the court and hopefully find a right fit with a team.”

Saturday, Day 3 — Time To Go To Work At The Factory

Saturday morning came mighty early with the gym doors at The Factory opening at 8:00 am. “The House that the Teague Brothers” built has become a second home for some of the best young basketball talent that the Indianapolis metro area has to offer, with reaching the lofty goals of the NBA like Jeff and Marquis Teague did. The plethora of framed jerseys, floor to ceiling posters, and framed tournament titles tell the story once you step through the doors.

This is every players dream.

The first hour of the day was dedicated to a free youth basketball clinic led by TBL Commissioner, Carlnel Wiley and TBL TMO’s Jason Conrad of the Salem Capitals and Rze Culbreath of the Virginia Valley Vipers among the group of coaches. From being a former player, head coach, and mentor through the game of basketball, Wiley is a constant surge of positivity and kindness on and off of the court. He’s one of the many people in front and behind the scenes in TBL that makes that league and Jr. TBL camps run smoothly for the 20 local kids who attended and learned along the way.

Within a matter of time, the small entryway and hallway at The Factory filled up fast with registrants who received their combine number and jersey and took a photo head shot, before starting to work with Mag Fit Training, who conducted measurements and skills training prior to warming guys up. Guards. Forwards. Centers. Guys fresh out of high school, several with college experience, some with previous professional stories, and a few who just might be Players to Watch this coming TBL season.

While Jr. TBL players enjoyed some 5-on-5 and Combine players registered, a third court doubled as a classroom with TBL head of officials and NBA referee legend, Ronnie Nunn, worked feverishly with a group of officials from around Indiana and the country, who would be calling the games at the Combine and during the ‘24 TBL season.

The early morning was full of energy and activity on three courts at The Factory. Bleachers filled with team officials, family members, kids, friends, and girl friends who came to cheer on and support players from all over.

It took a few games — and a packed afternoon — for guys to really work out some first day jitters and get their conditioning in check, but it helped that Carlnel Wiley was quick to both encourage guys in-between games or even if it meant stopping games briefly to offer words of wisdom in regards to spacing, pace, and being a reliable teammate. All of those facts of the game that these players can carry with them throughout the day and as they move forward in their playing careers, regardless if it’s only for a short moment in time or the start of a long journey that can take guys around the world and back again.

“I am proud of you because you are here…,”Wiley exclaimed.

“Now we go to work!”

Sunday, Day 4 — You Can’t Teach Size, But You Can Coach It Up

One of the biggest comments and conversations among those watching the Combine was the fact that unlike the 2023 TBL Combine, this event was more guard heavy than offering guys with a lot of size. There were a handful of players who you could consider a stretch as a true power forward or center at the pro level in the traditional sense of the word, but that changed when 7-foot-3 Chris Sodom walked into the gym on on the second day of the Combine.

I touched on this in an interview conducted the morning of Sunday’s Combine with Tex Greene of the Raleigh Firebirds.

Doing a quick background and scouting check, it was interesting to learn about how Chris’s road led to Speedway, Indiana after a very long start in Nigeria. The 25-year came to the United States in 2015 and attended Beaumont Center High School in Houston, Texas before attending Tennessee Prep Academy in Memphis, Tennessee where he was listed as a four-star recruit by Sodom’s college tenure started at Georgetown in 2017-18 and continued at Delaware State with Chris appearing in 12 games and recording recorded at least one block in six games during the 2021-22 season for the Hornets.

He turned heads all day at the Combine by taking a non-traditional approach to warm-ups. Instead of joining the rest of guys on the three courts in respective lay-up and shooting lines to get started, Sodom bounded from court to court to court slam dunking the ball from rim to rim to rim, while other guys worked on short jumpers and missed dunks.

He hadn’t played one came at the Combine after not playing on Saturday and he was already the talk of the gym without even playing a game. You sure can’t teach size and it was clear that Sodom would be the future first round pick of the TBL Draft later that night. From game to game, be ran the floor, worked around the rim, posted up easily, finished strong, and even showed a soft touch at times on his jump shot.

Unpolished, TBL is a good place for Chris Sodom to grow and develop. There were times when coaches would pull him to the side and talk and offer words of advice, like Jason Conrad, who coached Sodom up between games. It’s those kind of teaching moments that speak volumes. By late afternoon, solidifying the first player of the 76 players chosen by TBL was a lock even four hours before the draft process actually took place. Jacksonville 95ers had moved up in the draft after making a deal with Rocket City in Hunstville, Alabama. The coaching staff for the 95ers casually approached Sodom to share the news about trading up in the draft to secure his rights. With family waiting patiently in the stands, a firm handshake completed the talk as Sodom changed into his warm-up gear and called it a day.

The TBL would make the announcement official back at the hotel to open two rounds of picks at the Draft to be broadcasted and streamed as players awaited to hear their names called. At the end of the day, 76 players were selected and there were a number of solid selections, including the Wichita Skykings selecting 6’6 Jaron Williams from Barry University and former Sudbury FIVE guard, Orlando Little, who went to the Kokomo Bobkatz as the respect second and third picks. For the first time in TBL Draft history however, the first pick would be on-hand and presented in front of all of the team owners and coaches at the Draft. Chris Sodom ducked his head under the doorway, came into the room, shook hands, smiled, took pictures, shook more hands, and was now part of the TBL’s Jacksonville 95ers.

His big day was over.

He was heading home.

Wendell Maxey is the author of Around The Basketball League and has written about professional basketball and sports for 20 years. He’s been featured on,, USA Today, FOX Sports, and SLAM Magazine among other publications and media outlets. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or read through his archive on Linktree. This 2024 season, Wendell will also be a featured writer with the Basketball Super League.


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