HEISER: Bucs are new game in York

Steve Heiser

York's history with semi-professional basketball has been checkered, at best.

The teams have come, and gone, lasting no more than a few years, or less.

The Cyclone, the Noise and the Mighty Ants are among some of the franchises that have attempted to gain foothold in the city in the past couple of decades.

The Ants were the most recent entry. They experienced more than a little success, thanks largely to the tireless efforts of York High graduate Seth Leonard and a large number of former York County high school standouts on its roster. In their couple of years in existence, the Ants made two Eastern Basketball Alliance title games, falling each time to the Harrisburg Horizon in the 2015 and 2014 finals.

Unfortunately for the Ants and Leonard, the EBA collapsed around them. The league has announced it has suspended operations for the 2016 season.

Despite that troubled history, another semi-pro basketball team is trying to make a go of it in York.

The York Buccaneers are members of the far-flung American Basketball Association, a league that features dozens of teams and multiple divisions stretching from southern California to New England. It's a league that bills itself as a stepladder to help young players get the exposure needed to advance to the next level, such as the NBA D-League or in foreign leagues.

The Bucs are playing their home games at Hannah Penn Middle School at 415 E. Boundary Ave.

The driving force behind the Bucs is Tyrell Bowie, a former Baltimore high school hoops standout who has lived in York since 2012. Bowie, who is in sales, says he moved to the area because he was looking for a "change of scenery" for his family and he heard "good things" about York.

Thus far, the Bucs have struggled on the court, getting off to a 1-4 start in the ABA Northeast 1 Division, which also includes the Baltimore Hawks, the DMV Warriors, the Philadelphia Spirit, the Jamestown Americans and the New Jersey Express. Bowie is a former coach with the Hawks.

Despite his team's slow start, and York's problematic past with semi-pro hoops, the 35-year-old Bowie remains undaunted.

"I think the difference (with the Bucs) is going to be work ethic," Bowie said. "We're going to put in a lot of hard work. Plus staffing. We're going to have the proper staff to handle anything. We want to keep it entertaining for the fans and offer family-friendly entertainment.. We need the community, and we need to show the community that this is for them. We're getting support from the city."

Bowie, who also serves as the team's coach, believes the team's record will improve, too, in the remaining dozen games of the regular season..

"I definitely believe we'll make a strong push and have the opportunity to make the playoffs (which start in late March or early April)," he said. "We're looking to put together a nice winning streak."

Bowie says that the early crowds at Hannah Penn have been "pretty good," although he said the first weekend of high school basketball did hurt attendance. Tickets sold in advance cost $10, while tickets are $15 at the door..

"We're not quite there yet," he said of attendance. "We're not where we want to be. We've been doing a lot of canvassing in the area with flyers and post cards. We'll continue to grow. We'd like to get more high school kids in the gym. So far, though, it's been a very diverse crowd, with a lot of real sports fans."

One area, in particular, that Bowie would like to emphasize is getting more York County players on the Bucs. That's one area where the Ants really succeeded. Right now, there are handful of local players on the Bucs' roster.

"I know it will be a lot better for the second season," Bowie said. "We're looking to get local talent, we're looking to get the York County standouts, instead of having to bring in so many outsiders."

Bowie is determined to grow his franchise. That much appears obvious. Whether that drive translates into long-term success, both financially and athletically, is an open question.

Tyrell Bowie coaches the York Buccaneers. The team will start its second season on Saturday night.

History is obviously working against him, but it's hard not to root for him.

After all, the city can use all the success stories it can get.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com. For information on the York Buccaneers visit yorkbuccaneers.com.

Bucs' schedule

Following are the remaining regular-season home games on the York Buccaneers' schedule:

Saturday, Jan. 2 vs. West Virginia Wild, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 9 vs. Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 30 vs. DMV Warriors, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 13 vs. North Carolina Coyotes, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 27 vs. Bronx Holy Flames, 6 p.m.

Saturday, March 12 vs. New Jersey Express, 6 p.m.