When college careers end and the window to sign with professional teams closes, the path back to basketball can be difficult for athletes who believe they still have something left to give in the sport they grew up playing.
Tyrell Bowie knows that feeling all too well. The owner and coach of the York Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association (ABA) had the same issue years ago and could only find summer leagues to play in to get a chance at professional basketball.
Now, Bowie uses his experience and resources to try and better the lives of the players in the York County area as the Bucs begin their fifth season in the semi-professional ABA, which is not related to the league that merged with the NBA in 1976.
“When I was these young men’s age and I still had what it takes to play on a high level and (his) knees were still operating correctly, I didn’t have this opportunity,” Bowie said. “We’re expanding, getting these guys in front of agents and the right coaches and management that can give them great opportunities.”
Local college standouts: Two players taking advantage of the chance to stay in shape and put together some film for scouts are Jason Bady and Anthony Bennett Jr.
Bady joins the Bucs after a dominant season for the York College men's team. He was named the Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year after leading the league in scoring and finishing in the top 10 in rebounding, blocked shots, free-throw percentage, field-goal percentage and assists.
Bennett averaged 12.8 points per game for a Penn State York squad that won its conference championship a season ago.
Both players plan to finish their degrees while playing for the Bucs and preparing to play overseas professionally next season. Bennett said he had offers from two teams in Portugal but wanted to earn his business degree first, while Bady is excited to learn from the opportunity he had at some exposure camps this year.
Bowie believes Bady and Bennett will have a big impact on the team despite the fast-paced playing style in the ABA.
“They’re going to hit some road blocks because it’s kind of like a rookie season,” Bowie said. “They got a lot of experience, but the levels are different. I tell these guys all the time, ‘There’s levels to this,’ but they got it. I believe them guys got what it takes to play on this level and even take it to the next level.”
The Bucs’ captain: One player who is key to recruiting local players to the Bucs is Darian Doleman. The 6-foot-8 graduate of York Suburban has been with the York team since its start, minus a stint in a professional league in Mexico.
His role on the team is playing center now, but Doleman doesn’t see his passion for the organization ending even when his time on the court does.
“As long as I am in York, there will be York Bucs (basketball),” Doleman said. “I am going to play until I can’t anymore, and then I am going to coach, be a recruiter or be in the stands. You will see me with a York Bucs jersey on.”
Doleman serves a recruiter now while playing, and Bady is one of the players he brought on this season. Another new face for the Bucs is someone that has been beating them for a few seasons.
A grand homecoming: Kelvin Parker, a 6-foot-4 York High graduate, who attended NCAA Division I Mount St. Mary’s University before transferring to Millersville University, has experience in the ABA with the DMV Warriors. The Warriors were one of the ABA’s top teams before moving to a new semi-professional league prior to this season.
Parker is excited to be back playing in his hometown, but like other players, battles the balance between working and basketball. He works during the day and then practices from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and has to mentally prepare to give the effort required to keep his professional basketball hopes alive.
“Late practices are rough, because everyone is tired,” Parker said. “You just gotta come in and get prepared to work (and give) 100% all the time.”
Ready to begin: With training camp over, new jerseys handed out and the players excited to get on the court, Bowie is ready to get the season started. The chance for the athletes to prove they belong in professional basketball is there, now it’s up to them to make it happen.
“I am anxious to see what these guys do and see all the hard work pay off,” Bowie said. “At the end of the day, they put in the work. The time is here now.”
— Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.