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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Boys are Back in Town

Written by Mckinzie Devereaux and Robert Faulk

The ball in back in Enid’s court this year, and the Outlaws are excited to bring their fast-paced, winning style to the Stride Bank Center this spring and summer. In their inaugural season two years ago, the Outlaws won The Basketball League’s (TBL) National Championship. Last year the team finished with an impressive 20-4 record, winning the Western Conference before they fell to the Shreveport Mavericks in the quarterfinals of the postseason tournament, ending their excellent season. The Outlaws have big goals this year, and it all comes down to the head coach, the players, the super fans and the venue.

The Head Coach – Ed Corporal

Ed Corporal, a 36-year coaching veteran, is returning to Enid after a one-year hiatus as head coach. During the Jan. 30 press conference, Outlaws owner Jonathan Reed beamed with excitement when he announced Corporal’s return. Reed introduced the head coach as “someone very special to the franchise.”

“It’s good to be back, back home,” Corporal said in his opening statement during the press conference. He left in 2022 to spend time with his children, expressing he was only on “a little vacation.”

Corporal continued, “We want to be that team, the team people want to come see, and the team players want to come play for.”

“I want to create a family-like atmosphere for my team,” Corporal said. “As a family, you go through growing pains, and you learn from it and grow from it.” By leading the team to a championship their first year, he established a precedent for the Outlaws and set the bar high for future players.

The expectations for this year’s team are high, and Corporal is confident in his team’s ability. “We are the team to beat, and we have been the team to beat since the formation of the franchise. We would like to win the division again, but it’s not all about basketball,” Corporal said. “We want the players to develop, too. I want them to not only be great basketball players, but I also want them to be great people.”

He continued, “I’m trying to teach them how to be professional, whether that is in basketball or business.”

The teams’ practices are open for spectators. Corporal recommends coming to a practice to observe the players and how he develops them.

The Outlaws franchise is a stepping stone for the players to transition to a higher level, with the ultimate dream being playing in the NBA. Current Oklahoma City Thunder player Lindy Waters III is one player who has reached that pinnacle after being a previous member of the Outlaws. “When I watched Lindy play against Philadelphia, I was like a proud dad watching him. The players are like my kids,” Corporal said. 

Another goal for this season is to get more fans into the stands during every home game. “Our fans are our sixth player,” Corporal said. “The fans are incredibly helpful and a necessity for any successful team.”

When it comes to defense, Corporal claims he is “old-school” in his methods. He would like for the Enid Outlaws to be defensive giants. Corporal stated that, “great defense leads to easier offensive opportunities.”

He explained further, “A strong defense is how most games are won. Forcing turnovers gets the ball into the player’s hands which gives them more offensive time with the ball in their possession. Great defense also forces the opposing team to shoot baskets from the outside, which also allows them to gain more rebounds, and that leads to more offensive plays.” During Corporal’s first year with the Outlaws, they led the league in defense, which is proof of his defense-first philosophy.

The Player – Jakolby Long

This may be Jakolby Long’s first year playing in TBL, but Long is hardly a rookie. The Mustang High School standout was named the Class 6A Oklahoma Boys Coaches Association Player of the Year his senior year.

He continued his basketball career after high school at Iowa State University for two seasons before transferring to Southern Utah University in 2018. He then transferred again, ending his college basketball career at the University of Southern Illinois.

The 6’5”, 205-pound shooting guard expressed how appreciative he is for the dedicated fans and a great arena in which to play. “I am really looking forward to playing back here in Oklahoma and seeing some of the same people I grew up with. I am especially excited about getting to play in front of my family,” he said.

As for what Long brings to the team, he says, “I feel like I can play one through three (point guard, shooting guard, small forward) for us. I am willing to do whatever Coach asks, whether it is distributing the ball, making shots or playing good defense, I just want to play winning basketball. I feel like I’m a pretty good shooter, so I’m really looking forward to making some shots for us and helping the team.”

When asked about the team, you can hear the excitement in Long’s voice when he said, “We are in training camp right now. We have some really good players out here, so it’s going to be fun to see who all makes the team and how we end up gelling together as the season goes on.”

“I had never heard of TBL, and I can’t believe we have this opportunity to play here in the states,” Long said. “We don’t have to go overseas to play good basketball and have the chance to get our names out there.”

Team owner Jonathan Reed is just as excited about Long, as Long is about playing. “I really like his poise on the court,” Reed said. “He’s an experienced guy, who has a lot of talent. He was a great high school player, and his college career didn’t necessarily go exactly as he wanted, but I thought he was a kid that we could help move forward in his career, and that he could really help the team too. That’s what we really love, to help players reach their potential, and we think Jakolby’s a guy that can be really good.”  

The Super Fans – T. J. Runser and Presley Reed

T.J. Runser is an original “super fan” and has attended almost every game from the start. He’s hard to miss from his courtside seats, and his company, Tiger Pawn, sponsors time outs and the player of the game. “I really love it,” Runser said. “I got involved because my dad was a part owner of the Storm (a previous Enid professional basketball team), and I thought it would be fun to be a part of a new pro team. I like all kinds of athletics and go to high school and college games, too, and the Outlaws are just a great source of entertainment. I really wish more people would come to check out a game and get on board because they don’t know what they are missing.”

Runser is such a big supporter he has traveled to away games and is excited about the budding rivalry with the Potawatomi Fire and catching a game or two there this year. “I can’t miss making it down there this year,” he said, “They’ve got our old coach and several of our players I got to know well last year, and it’ll be fun to compete against them. I like to give the opposing players a little bit of a hard time, but it’ll be challenging to really get after our old guys, even if they should have come back.”

Runser notes that Enid easily has one of the best facilities in the league, and that the production staff does a great job. “I can’t say enough about the games here. I have especially enjoyed the relationships I have built over the years because you never know where they will end up,” he said. “Some of the guys I have gotten to be friends with from the Storm and Outlaws have moved up to do really big things, and it’s fun knowing you saw and got to know them way back when.”  

Another super fan, Presley Reed, was delighted by the news that Corporal was returning as the Outlaws’ head coach. Presley had already purchased season tickets for his family when the announcement was made. “If the community will come out to see one game, they will fall in love with the Outlaws. It’s a great family experience, not just for super fans,” Reed said.

Reed has been a season ticket holder since the beginning. He has even traveled with other fans to watch out-of-town games.

According to Presley, the Stride Bank Center got rowdy during major games the last two seasons. “We really need the community to come out and support them,” Reed said. “The team members are involved and engaged with their supporters, as well as the community. It is nice they are local and that they have been involved in the community since they have been here. The way they interact with the crowd at games is an inclusive and wonderful experience.”

The Arena – Stride Bank Center

Corporal and the team are proud to play in the Stride Bank Arena. “This is the best arena in The Basketball League (TBL), by far, and we are very lucky to be able to play here,” he gushed. The arena, one of northwest Oklahoma’s largest, can hold up to 3,200 people for basketball, and the team would like to average more than 1,000 fans a game this year.

“This arena gives us a tremendous advantage,” Jonathan Reed said. “Not only are visiting players not used to the space behind the backboards, which helps us during the game, it’s just so nice to be able to share our product in such a nice location. Having fans and community support has been huge; it really has been a home-court advantage.”

He continued, “Everyone comments how we support our players, and it truly helps us win games. We couldn’t do some of the crazy things we do and provide the experience we do without the arena staff. They do a great job making it work for us. They accommodate us with everything we ask for.”

According to Stride Bank Center General Manager Jeff Bemis, they are just as excited to have the Outlaws back for year three. “We consider them an anchor tenant for us in Enid,” he said. “It’s nice knowing we have 15 dates for the arena occupied. I wasn’t here the last couple of years, but from what I hear the game production is really good, and they put out a good product. This is a great place to watch basketball – there is not a bad seat in the house, and you can see great from every vantage point. I am excited to see how the crowd interacts with the team.”

The Outlaws begin play on March 3 and play their first home game on March 12. Tickets are available at www.stridebankcenter.com or by visiting the box office before games.

Robert Faulkhttps://enidmonthly.com
Robert R. Faulk is the Publisher and Editor of the Enid Monthly. Robert graduated from Oklahoma State University with a B.A. in Political Science and has his J.D. from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. He is originally from Oklahoma City, but is happy to have lived in Enid since 2004 and calls it "home."



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