TBL Draft Combine Becomes About Much More Than A Numbers Game

Over the past few days, TBL teams have converged on Indianapolis in an effort to fine-tune their organizations while giving over 100 young men a fair shot at living out their hoop dreams in ’23.

No one came up to him. No one said a word.

There would be plenty of time for that at Day 2 of the Team Market Owner meetings at the Wyndham Indianapolis Hotel, as a full-day of activities, speakers, partners, and encouraging words from David and Evelyn Magley drew to close with all TBL teams having the chance to sit with draft participants and learn more about them on a frigid Friday night in Indiana.

Chances are these novice players didn’t know who Coach Tucker was. They didn’t know his resume. They didn’t know he raised the Lillie championship trophy last year with the underdog Shreveport Mavericks. They didn’t know about his previous four titles in the ABA. And they certainly didn’t know that Mr. Tucker proudly wears two hats for his team as head coach and managing general partner. But after nearly two hours of quick-fire interview questions with TBL Draft Combine attendees, they came away educated on the opportunities that await these young men in The Basketball League by participating in the Draft Combine.

“Tonight, when I speak to these young men I am trying to find out about their character. What kind of a person are they? That matters. And tomorrow, that’s where the skill comes into play,” Coach Tucker explained.

“This is their chance. This is their time to shine.”

The TBL Grows, The Business Matures

As a whirlwind Friday culminated with “The Interview”, a speed-dating structure of rapid Q&A’s between teams and players that lasted a span of two hours, a number of points became vividly clear. First and foremost, the TBL is in good hands not only because of people like the Magleys, TBL Commissioner Carlnel Wiley, and a dedicated supporting staff, but also because of the TBL teams that span across the US and up North in Canada. It’s a big reason why those in attendance at the Team Market Owners meetings on Thursday and Friday bonded over the mutual belief that TBL is growing in the right direction. Regardless if it’s an expansion team or a seasoned organization, there’s a steady ideal taking shape that the league is taking a strong approach to building the TBL the right way.

From the fledgling eight teams of the North American Premiere Basketball league in 2017-18 that would eventually become the foundation of the TBL, to blossoming to 10 teams in 2018-19, to 12 teams in 2020, there were feelings that this league could be onto something. And as the world fought fearfully against a global pandemic, the TBL exploded into 29 teams in 2021, 44 teams during year-five in 2022, to this ‘23 season with 49 teams (three of which are based in Canada).  With year six upon us, the mantra remains the same: The league grows. The business matures.

So what’s next for TBL? We can start with this year’s All-Star Game being awarded to the Lehigh Valley Legends.

Over the next three to five years, TBL has aspirations of aggressive growth in Canada (12 teams), pilot testing online betting, and the creation of a Euro Cup “Super League” model between TBL and NBLCanada. By 2025, TBL is looking to 88 total teams across North America.

The One Team Shaking Up The TBL Basketball World

If you’re not familiar with Alma Academy – one of the three TBL teams in Canada this season along with the Newfoundland Rogues and Montreal Tundra – consider this a teaching moment to not only learn about the expansion team, but to better understand the unique model they’re bringing to TBL.

For those with a working knowledge of the international club team structure and system, you’ll find a great appreciation for what TMO Cyrille Poitevineau-Millin and Head Coach David Petroziello are attempting to accomplish with the organization who will call Quebec home. Not only will Alma Academy aim to invest in youth development to keep and grow players within their “club”, but the team also makes history this season by becoming the first French-speaking team in North America to play in the TBL.

This organization may have billed themselves at their initial press conference last October as an amateur type team (players age will range between 16 to 22 years old), but spend a matter of minutes speaking with Cyrille Poitevineau-Millin and David Petroziello about their vast vision in Canada, and you’ll come away pondering that this just might be the most mature and professional organization in the TBL.

Jr. TBL Tips-Off Full Day At Combine

On Saturday morning, attention shifted to the D1 Training facility and the courts that welcomed over 100 players poised to take their shot at being selected by a TBL team on Draft Day, which will be streamed on TBL TV. But before three courts heated up with energetic and at times frantic play from 10am to 5pm, there were some young guns that took the court first thing in the morning with Carlnel Wiley and TMO Jason Conrad of the Salem Capitals leading 30-some boys and girls through skills training, development, and team scrimmages at the Jr. TBL Camp.

“Working with kids is my absolute favorite. They are so honest, full of life and keep me alert the whole time. I get to have fun and laugh yet I take it seriously because I truly want to make a positive impact in those moments I am with them. We all need positivity in our life and the youth give me a full dose of happiness,” Wiley explained.

“I feel this is one of our most important programs we offer. I think sometimes people take for granted the impact mentorship can bring to a kid’s life. I have seen it time and time again when the kids get to work directly with a ‘pro player’ the excitement they feel is extremely special to witness. I know they are making a huge difference in someone’s day.”

This Is A Job…A Basketball Job

Team Market Owner, David Qualls, of the Potawatomi Fire said it perfectly on Friday night and well before combine players stepped on the court at D1 Training on Saturday.

“You can tell which of these guys are hungry, just by looking in their eyes,” Qualls said.

Those words came to life from the minute players began arriving to check in for the Combine and prior to going through their measurement and vertical jump sessions with Mag Fit Training. If there were any “pre-game jitters” they certainly didn’t show. Before full court games officially got underway on the three courts at D1 Training, TBL President David Magley gathered all players together and shot straight from the hip.

“This is a job…a basketball job. That’s why you are here. So go hard and have fun today.”

Guys took that to heart and it showed through their play. With Team Market Owners, coaching staffs, and front office personnel evaluating players throughout the day, there was a palpable feeling of respect in the air for what these young men were striving for. It’s the same thing many owners, coaches, and staff members alike face each time they mention their team name or the TBL in general. The sense of belonging. An immense pride. And a genuine support for these players for chasing something bigger than themselves. It was far more than just writing down jersey numbers on a short-list of guys that impressed, or side discussions of teams wanting to swap spots in the Draft. It easily became about so much more.

It was their chance. It was their time to shine.

Wendell Maxey is the author of Around The Basketball League and has written about professional basketball and sports for 19 years. He’s been featured on NBA.com, ESPN.com, 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.