Updated: Oct 19, 2021
I’ve written about a few teams in The Basketball League now, and there have been a few commonalities between the different teams. The first being that for the most part, the desire of the fans to have a team in their location has been quite high. The second is in the
organization’s involvement in the community. Each basketball club, so far, has been deeply involved in building around their communities and involving the community in building the club. The last commonality is in the style of play of each team. From what I have seen so far, TBL teams are very much guard-centric, arguably following the current trend of basketball today.
The Gulf Coast Lions, however, are a bit different in two of the three points that I had raised. Similarly, with the rest of the teams, the Lions are very active in the community. They hold outreach events and sports events with schools and younger age groups to promote the sport and the team. The Lions are also completely supported by local businesses showing that they are built by the community itself.
Sarasota, Florida (where the team is located), however, is a bit of a hard sell for a professional basketball team. This may be because of the area’s preference for baseball and football. The nearest NBA team to Sarasota would be the Orlando Magic, with Orlando being a two-hour drive away. That being said, it could also be argued that this is why having a more local basketball team to the Sarasota area could be a great idea.
In their first game in the 2020 TBL season, the Lions faced local rivals, the Tampa Bay Titans. Less than a hundred people showed up for the Lions in what was their first home game as well as their first win of the season. However, this may be due to the fact that the Lions were a late addition to The Basketball League prior to the 2020 season. During that opening game, going into the fourth quarter, down by two, the Lions came out on top in a tight game to win 111-98. The Lions finished the season with a record of four wins and four losses. They showed their quality in a twelve-point win against a top team in the Dallas Skyline but showed their inconsistency in being the only win of the Lewisville Yellow Jackets (now the Lewisville Leopards) season.
This brings me to the other difference between the Lions and other teams in the league, their star player. A Six-foot five forward named Jonathan Ocasio averaged almost 21 points and 5 rebounds per game and was oftentimes the first scoring option for the Gulf Coast Lions. In that first game, Ocasio co-led his team in scoring, finishing the game with 24 points. A native of Queens, twenty-eight-year-old Ocasio has played several seasons in Puerto Rico and a breakout season in Nicaragua, showing he is no stranger to professional basketball.
One of the big "what-ifs" of the season for this team was if Ocasio could maintain his form and finish the season strong. The other big "what-if" was where would this team be had the season not been canceled. While there were a few inconsistencies in their play, the Lions showed that they had the quality to compete with the top teams of the league and maybe even compete for the title. This will, however, have to just be a source of motivation for them going into the new season. Even though they may not always get a lot of people to watch them, I would not sleep on the Gulf Coast Lions.
This piece was written by Enrique Ortiz, a common contributor for Globally Ballin. This piece is the third article of the "Who Are They" series. An article series that takes a look at all the teams in The Basketball League from a fresh set of eyes. Each piece in this series will be out and available on the website every Tuesday, enjoy!
ALSO - Below are a few links that will take you to video interviews we did at the 2019 TBL Draft Combine. The interview is with Ed Corporal and Lions TMO, Mario Lovett. These audio interviews are a part of the Globally Ballin Patreon page. So, if you are not already subscribed, a subscription may be required. Click the links to find out and learn more, enjoy!
Fernandes, D. (2020, February 01). PRO BASKETBALL: Gulf Coast Lions win debut. Retrieved August 7, 2020, from https://www.heraldtribune.com/sports/20200201/pro-basketball-gulf-coast-lions-win-debut
MTD Marketing (Ed.). (2019). About The Gulf Coast Lions. Retrieved August 7, 2020, from https://www.gulfcoastlions.com/about
Eurobasket LLC (Ed.). (2020). Jonathan Ocasio: Basketball player. Retrieved August 7, 2020, from https://www.eurobasket.com/player/Jonathan-Ocasio/Nicaragua/Leones-de-Managua/313160
Geniussports. (2020). Gulf Coast Lions Team Profile. Retrieved August 7, 2020, from https://hosted.wh.geniussports.com/TBBL/en/team/126998?