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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Outlaws Ride Again!

Court is now in session. Your Enid Outlaws return to the hardwood on March 11th for season two. The Outlaws capped off their inaugural season in 2021 as champions of The Basketball League. The 120-107 win over the Syracuse Stallions at the Stride Bank Center followed a 21-point win on the road ending the best of three series in just two games. They are looking forward to this season and the chance to connect even further with the Enid community along with the challenge of defending the title.

Developing Dreams

The Enid Outlaws basketball team is a player development-based business that is owned and operated by Jonathan Reed and On Point Operations Group. The group focuses on developing the professional basketball careers of players ages 18 and up.  

The Outlaws are made up of players ranging from those with no experience to some that have played in college or professionally overseas. Nine of eleven players that were on last year’s team and finished the season received professional contracts. They went on to play with professional teams including notable leagues in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, and Estonia, and even the NBA.

Out of the nine, four are hopeful to return at some point this season. The remaining players will not be returning as their seasons with their current teams will not be completed before the Outlaws season starts. This year, the TBL season starts in March. Most overseas leagues will not end until April or as late as May.  Reed said the team was able to recruit what he referred to as “young new talent” to complete the roster for the upcoming season.

The process of celebrating the successes of current and past players and finding new talent to develop is the model which the organization strives to uphold. The idea is to develop players and hopefully keep them for the year preparing them for the next level. Once they advance in their careers, the focus shifts to new up-and-coming players. Following players’ careers as they move forward is an exciting aspect of the development league. Fans continue to cheer for them while getting to know the new faces in the Enid Outlaws uniforms.

Generally, one or two players will return each spring and summer from other endeavors, however, the goal is to move players on to a higher level. The coaches and staff take care of them, doing their very best for a year to prepare them to meet the objective to move forward.  

So far, they have signed four players that formerly played in the league on other teams.  According to Reed, “We have had a lot of interest from players that went and played on other teams that either saw our venue or saw us online and they wanted to play for our organization because of the way we develop players and the way our fans were and the way the arena was.” Reed shared the organization has received a lot of compliments from people around the league and people around the world. He said they complimented the way they do business and the way they treat their people. Reed said, “That’s been a very positive thing. Major props to the City of Enid and everyone involved in the operation. We have done a good job in putting it all together and making it a positive experience for fans and players. It is obviously getting noticed around the league.”

Notable players from last year’s roster include Chance Comanche, Omega Harris, Devon Harris and Lindy Waters III.

Following up on his MVP season last year in the TBL, Comanche is a candidate up for the MVP in one of the leagues in Turkey. Omega Harris went on to play in Armenia and was one of the top players on his team, helping lead them to a division title. He will return to the Outlaws this season. Devon Harris will also return to Enid. He played for a team in Estonia during the off-season. Lindy Waters III went from the Outlaws to the Oklahoma City Blue, the G League for the OKC Thunder.  He played 28 games for the Blue before the Thunder announced on February 10th they had signed him to a two-way contract. Waters made his debut on the court on February 11th against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Three players from last season will return to play in Stride Center for another season. In addition to Omega Harris and Devon Harris, post player Quantel Denson will return from Kansas City.

A Program to be Proud of

The organization not only develops players but also develops staff, dancers, front office people and coaches as well. This season will include several new faces in operations.  Last season’s head coach took a head coaching position in Mexico. In addition, the assistant coach from last season accepted an associate head coaching job at Langston University. The position at Langston was one of his dream jobs. He wanted to work for an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Reed was excited for the assistant coach and shared, “I thought was super cool that he was able to leverage some of the experience he got in our basketball academy for the prep school after he came in and we hired him as the assistant for our pro team and then actually worked for the semi-pro team, then the pro team and then got a job in college”. 

In regards to developing more than players, Reed said, “If we were to win a championship year in and year out, I would love that, but the biggest thing is that we help people to their next level and develop them the right way.” The goal according to Reed is to ultimately please the fans by having fun and providing an entertaining product. The Outlaws want the fans and people in Enid to have something they can be proud of. Reed said, “we want them to know that when they attend games they are going to get a show every time and not just have a bunch of guys running around acting crazy.”  The organization wants to provide a good, family-friendly environment where people can have fun and hopefully stay around long term.  Reed said he has no plans to go anywhere outside of Enid.  He said, “it is where we built this thing. We named it after the city and want it to be here.”

The organization is looking forward to building on the support and relationships that were started with the first season. According to Reed, they are looking for ways to partner with people to help promote their businesses and are open to helping with publicity. They want to be in the area as much as possible. The unique thing about this level of basketball is the players can interact with the community on a deeper level. New Marketing and Media Director, Cara Helzer will be working with reaching out and connecting with people to find ways the team can give back to the community and make connections and is a good contact for community organizations and businesses that are interested in partnering or presenting an opportunity.

Fans can expect a lot more in the entertainment department this year.  They want to build on the fans. momentum from last year to make it more entertaining for the fans with more give-aways, and fan participation opportunities.

The league is implementing technology to improve the fan experience overall. Reed said there are several “cool” things he plans to invest in and maybe add in the second part of the year.  He said some of the technology will involve fans’ cell phones. They want to make the experience the best and are hopeful for another winning season.

Strength in Staffing

Head Coach Mark Dannhoffis from a college background. Reed believes he will relate to the young talent on the team. In the process of selecting a coach, they wanted to get someone that could work with young talent and work with the player development mindset to develop young guys into being pros.  His experience as a professional player will help him to mentor the players and show them how to be professionals. He will be able to assess them and help give them a plan on how to achieve their goals to develop and grow as basketball players on the court.

Front Row L to R: Dance Team Members Chloe Gustafson and Mia Searcy
Back Row L to R: Rashard Stringfield-Director of Basketball Operations, DeCarlos Holmes-player, James Helzer-player, Mark Dannhoff-Head Coach, Jonathan Reed–Team Market Owner (TMO), Emannuel Toney–Assistant Coach, Jean Felix Moupegnou, James Helzer, Cara Helzer – Marketing and Media Director

Although this is the first season together the staff appear to have known each other for years.  The staff will play a key role in the success of the season.

Marketing and Media Director, Cara Helzer has a passion for the game that stems from her own experience as a player throughout high school. She is a certified Kindergarten teacher and is currently working on her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling.  She is married to player James Helzer who joins the roster for the Outlaws for the first time this season.

Rashard Stringfield, Director of Basketball Operations, is in his first year in Enid with the Outlaws. He was with the TBL last year as Assistant General Manager and Assistant Coach for the Little Rock Lightning. He graduated from Philander Smith College HBCU in Little Rock in 2020. Stringfield met Reed during the 2021 combine. Reed offered him a tour and shared his vision, ultimately recruiting him to join the staff. Stringfield believes everyone is a coach in their own way and strives to follow Coach Mark’s advice “be a star in your role.”

Player Development Director, Jean Felix Moupegnou, spent the last year in France, however, he will be familiar to some as he played in Enid in 2008 for the Oklahoma Storm. He has friends in Enid with whom he has stayed in touch throughout his career and is looking forward to being back in the community.  He said “it’s a great town with great people. I love Enid.”

Reed is very confident that between Coach Dannhoff and himself, along with the staff they have, they were able to put something special together in Enid that no one else can do in the country right now. He said, “I feel good about it, we do however have a lot of rivalries, they have added so many teams in the league it’s going to make it a lot more competitive, a lot more difficult to win a championship.”

Due to the increase in the number of teams, another round of playoffs has been added however Reed believes the Outlaws are ultimately in a good position to show what they can do. He shared they are not afraid of competition, and he avoids giving in to feeling pressured. He said, “I go in and I do what I can do and then sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The biggest thing is we are going to do things the right way with the right people and just move forward no matter what.”



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