Not every basketball player can make it to the NBA, but that doesn’t mean their hoop dreams were all for naught.
The Columbus Condors, the newest addition to The Basketball League –– a semi-pro league run by former NBA player Dave Magley –– open play Friday with a slew of former Ohio area college players.
Jimmy Ratliff, a former Ohio State forward who won two Big Ten Championships from 1990 to ’94, is the head of basketball operations for the Condors. He said he is excited to see the energy and growth of the team in its inaugural season.
“This is either for guys that have been overseas, come back, take a year off, young guys straight out of college, or I’ll be honest –– there’s a couple guys hanging on,” Ratliff said.
With a roster of 10 Ohio natives, nine of whom played college basketball in the Buckeye state, many have made money playing in other countries.
Six-foot-6 forward Randon Dyer played on the Harlem Globetrotters from 2011 to ’15 between overseas stints. He’s also played professionally in Brazil.
The Condors have practiced for two months, and former Wooster point guard Trey Miller is glad to compete against skilled teams across the country.
“I love basketball,” Miller said. “It’s fun to get up and down, but just to have that drive to do something and get back at it.”
TBL boasts 12 teams that play a four-month schedule, during which players can make up to $2,000 per month, Ratliff said.
“It’s a step below the G-League. Obviously there’s not the money like the G-League, but there’s guys that are bouncing back and forth, and it’s also a league that’s trying to send guys overseas,” Ratliff said. “After Ohio State, I spent like seven years overseas.”
After his tenure with the Buckeyes, Ratliff spent time playing in England, Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg and Spain. He said TBL’s statistics are hooked to the International Basketball Federation so scouts around the world can evaluate what players are doing.
His involvement with the Condors stems from his partnership with team owner Darrell Miller –– an Ohio State alumnus who co-owned the USA Sports Academy athletic facility in Columbus with former NBA coach George Karl for five years. Ratliff helped Miller run the facility for four years before Karl sold it.
Opposing teams are based across the country, with organizations in Texas, New York and Florida, along with an organization in Dayton, Ohio.
This past season, Ratliff said the Albany Patroons had former Cleveland Cavalier and NBA dunk contest participant Jamario Moon on its roster.
The erratic, AAU travel style of the upcoming schedule is exciting as well, Miller said. The Condors played seven of their first eight games on the road, traveling to places such as Indianapolis, New York and Virginia.
Ratliff said the Condors have been in discussions to acquire a former Ohio State player to lace up for the team, though the player remains unnamed as of now.
“Our main focus needs to be on getting stops, getting turnovers, to create transition chances for offense,” former University of Northwestern Ohio forward Devonte Beatty said.
The Otterbein University Rike Center, which seats 3,100, will host the Condors’ 11 home games on tap for the first season.
Former Youngstown State guard Jaylen Benton is confident in the team’s ability to compete with proven opponents and create a dynamic atmosphere as the newest organization in TBL.
“We’re trying to put on a show,” Benton said. “We’re going to put on a show.”
Ratliff said the league held a combine this past week for teams to scout talent and draft players, but the Condors were the lone club with mostly local players comprising its roster. While other teams have to provide housing for players, many Condors don’t have to travel far.
“Usually you can’t field a team of just a city. It’s hard to find big guys, small guys, but Darrell’s done a really good job,” Ratliff said.
Columbus’ newest team will open its season Friday in New York against the Jamestown Jackals.
Tickets can be purchased online through the Condors’ team website, and games can be viewed through a livestream on TBL’s website and SportsCastr.