The Kokomo BobKats packed a lot of good memories into their inaugural year.
There were the four straight wins at home to open the season as the BobKats served notice to The Basketball League that Memorial Gym was going to be a tough venue for visitors. Later, there was the successful West Coast road trip as the BobKats showed they had what it took to win away from home as well.
In the end, Kokomo led the league’s Midwest grouping wire to wire and finished the regular season 19-5. In the playoffs, the BobKats swept the Dayton Flight in a best-of-three series to reach the final eight. The rival Indy Express then ended the BobKats’ run, sweeping a best-of-three series.
“We look forward to building on this year,” team co-owner Mark Jansen said. “It was a heck of a run. We had a wonderful coaching staff and I can’t say enough about the fan support and the community support with our 100 or so partners. I’m overwhelmed with joy.”
Backed by lively crowds, Kokomo finished 12-2 in home games — 11-1 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs.
“I think the biggest thing that I appreciated was how the fans appreciated the level of play,” Jansen said. “One of the things I heard the most from people was they didn’t expect the basketball to be as good as it was, and the word I heard the most on the street was ‘electric’ as it pertained to the environment. I give credit to my son Jacob, who did the deejaying, and that drumline for keeping the place live. They sure didn’t disappoint.”
The BobKats’ season came to a bittersweet end as the team had to play without star guard Derek Hawthorne in the series against the Express. The first-team All-TBL player missed the first game in order to attend a tryout for the Israeli league, which Jansen said has a $140,000 minimum salary. Hawthorne suffered an injury during the tryout that caused him to miss the second game.
“You hate to have players miss a game, but the whole idea and goal of this league is to elevate these players to another level if they’re capable,” Jansen said. “Although we ultimately want to win, we also don’t want to take an opportunity from somebody. It’s unfortunate of the timing [of the tryout] and that he got hurt while he was down there.”
Kokomo had perhaps the league’s best backcourt in the first half of the season when Eugene German and Hawthorne played together. They led the BobKats to a 10-2 record before German, who was among the league’s top scorers, left the league to pursue other opportunities. Hawthorne then stepped into the go-to role.
The BobKats had other helpful players like forward A.J. Patty, who had a 52-point game vs. the Vegas Ballers during the BobKats’ 3-1 West Coast trip. Wings Trey Mitchell and Martrellian Gibson, forward Tremont Moore and guard Armon Bridgeforth, a former KHS three-sport athlete, provided reliable play and speedy guard Johnathan Loyd led the late-season additions.
Jansen credits coach Cliff Levingston for constructing a winning roster.
“With his NBA experience and everything, he has a log book of resources and sources to get players in here,” he said.
Jansen said the plan is for Levingston to coach two more years. As for players, the roster likely will have a different look next year as the league operates on one-year or shorter deals. In other words, everyone is a free agent at season’s end.
“There’s several players who have expressed interest to come back and play here again,” Jansen said, noting fellow co-owner Jeff Beeler has heard from potential new players.
Jansen said planning for next season will intensify in November and December when player combines are held. The 2022 season is slated to begin the first weekend of March.