The owners of the city’s new minor league TBL (The Basketball League) team have announced three more combines in an effort to attract talented players to play for the Bobkats.
With limited European access for Americans and NBA developmental teams not participating due to COVID-19, the level of play up for grabs is nothing short of impressive, according to Bobkats Owner Jeff Beeler.
He said usually teams will sign one or two players from each combine, where 15 to 30 players will participate for a shot. He’s excited about the talent level available in the current climate.
“It should be very good because a lot of the overseas markets still are not operating, so a lot of those guys are still here. And only a fraction of the (NBA) G League teams are participating in the season. So, we know of four G League players that have expressed interest,” Beeler said. “And in fact, we already have our coach, but we were contacted by a G League assistant from the Houston Rockets to coach. He coached last year under Mike D’Antoni, so these are legitimate coaches and players that are available right now.”
Here is a breakdown of significant dates for the start of the TBL season:
• Jan. 8 - Westfield, IN Combine
• Jan. 22 - Hammond, IN Combine
• Feb. 12 - St. Louis, MO Combine
• Feb. 27 & 28 - TBL Draft Combine
• March 13 - Kokomo Combine/Training camp
• April 9 - Estimated first game of the season
The TBL Draft Combine is a setting in Indianapolis where other teams in the league can draft players who haven’t already signed a contract with a current TBL team. Beeler said the Bobkats will get a minimum of two players from the TBL draft from a pool of players from 25 different cities.
The Kokomo combine will be more of a final training camp in which Beeler said the Bobkats will attempt to sign one or two local players to complete the final roster. The final camp will have 18 players and will be cut to a 12-man roster.
Throughout the combine process, Beeler said the players will get reports from the coach on where they stand compared to other players – their vertical leap, height and weight, shooting percentage, etc.
“And [the Kokomo combine/player camp] will be open to the public because we want everybody to see the talent that we’ve assembled,” Beeler said. “So, when ‘guy from the Y’ goes and tries out that everybody thinks is a great player, it will be clear what that looks like. You will stick out like a sore thumb.”
On Dec. 30, the TBL announced its 34th market expansion will be in Shreveport, La. Other markets have been announced in California, Las Vegas, and Houston, but Beeler said the Bobkats will only travel on one “far away” trip.
“Our normal games will be regional games. There’s an Owensboro team. There’s a Dayton team. There’s a Detroit team … Wisconsin, so those that are kind of a day of travel away,” Beeler said. “Sixteen teams will make the playoffs based on record. They will be seeded in what’s like a 16-team tournament.”
The playoffs will be best-of-three games, with the higher seed hosting two of the three games at home.
Levingston is bringing in some high-level guys himself, according to Beeler. The starters are likely there, he said, but the roster is still far from complete, and that’s what the combines are for.
“Most of the starters on our team will have probably attended an NBA camp, combine, or tryout,” Beeler said. “The excitement is definitely building. We had one of our newest owners that we met with, Steve Francis, who played for the Houston Rockets, also known as Stevie Franchise. And the interest from former NBA guys because of the quality of the product really makes Mark and I excited. And as we get calls from agents of guys that have played at very high levels at very prominent schools, we realize these aren’t second-rate guys; these are very talented basketball players that have NBA dreams.”