Dayton takes pride in being a hotbed for college basketball. The city will soon have a professional team competing for attention in the winter with the Dayton Flyers and Wright State Raiders.
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The Basketball League, which finished its second season in May, announced Monday it was adding a team in the Gem City for the 2020 season. It will be called the Dayton Flight.
David Magley, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball who played college basketball at Kansas, founded the league with his wife Evelyn. He compared the level of play to the second- or third-tier leagues in Europe or Double-A in minor-league baseball.
“Every country in the world has multiple levels of pro basketball,” Magley said Tuesday. “In the U.S., you really have the NBA and the G League, which is pretty much the same thing because the NBA is now taking all of their G League markets for the most part and moving them within an hour of the NBA franchise so they can operate like a JV/varsity. That makes sense because they don’t need them as profit centers. They need them as development pieces.”
The Basketball League has filled the void by launching teams in cities such as Albany, N.Y., Owensboro, Ky., and Yakima, Wash. The league was known as North America Premier Basketball in 2018 but changed its name to The Basketball League before its second season.
There were 10 teams last season, and the league is adding four for the 2020 season, which will begin in February. In addition to Dayton, there will be another Ohio team: the Columbus Condors.
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Brandon Harper, a Colonel White High School and Central State University graduate who has worked as a sports agent, and Daniel Hill Sr., a private investor, comprise the ownership group. Harper, a cousin of Miami RedHawks great Ron Harper, is the general manager.
“The timing is so unfortunate with the devastation (in Dayton),” Harper said, “but what we’re looking to do is rejuvenate the city in our own way by building a championship team on and off the court.”
Harper’s first priority is building a roster. He said there will be a tryout Sept. 7-8 at Thurgood Marshall High School.
Magley said he doesn’t want teams to overspend. The league’s goal is to find local players who are looking to start their pro careers or players who saw action overseas but want to stay closer to home and also former NBA players who want to extend their careers in a U.S. league. According to the league’s website, player salaries range from $1,500 to $6,500 per month.
“If you’re going to build a championship team on and off the court, we want to get guys who have the passion,” Harper said. “We want to find guys who are going to be part of the fabric of the community.”
Harper’s second priority is finding a place to play. He expects to finalize a site soon, and it would be either Thurgood Marshall or more likely Trotwood-Madison High School.
“We need 1,000 people per game to break even,” said Magley, who said the team should have a head coach within the next two weeks. “It’s not like we need to have a 6,000 or 10,000-seat venue. The secret to our success is to be really engaged in the community. That’s why we started it.”
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Dayton has had minor league basketball in the past. The Dayton Wings played in the World Basketball League, for players 6-foot-5 and under, at the Nutter Center in 1991 and won the championship in the league’s first season. That league folded with eight games remaining in the regular season in its second year.
The Dayton Jets played at Hara Arena in the International Basketball League in 2005 and lost in the championship game in their only season of existence. The Dayton Air Strikers competed in the Premier Basketball League starting in 2011 and later moved to the Midwest Basketball League, competing through 2016.
Harper hopes the new franchise follows the route of the Dayton Dragons, one of the great success stories in minor-league sports.
“We’re going to take flight in a special way,” Harper said. “We know the Dayton Dragons is a heck of a blueprint. They’re 20 years strong now. For me or anybody else to get into this and not look at them as a standard in the industry, that would be foolish.”