PREMIUM: Insights from Indiana Lyons’ First Practice

Eric Ivie. (Photo by TOPPLevel Entertainment, LLC)

by Eric Ivie

The Indiana Lyons held their first practice of the 2023-24 preseason last weekend as they prepare to defend their ABA Championship. People who know me often ask me for insights into the team and its goings-on, and while I’m obviously limited from laying all of the team’s cards out on the table for competitive reasons, I can share an inside view into a lot of things.

The Lyons’ practice included about 8-10 guys who are trying to join the roster for the upcoming season, along with most of the veterans from this past season. The new guys were invited to practice based on standing out from the 50 or so players who tried out for the team in July.

I have nothing to do with player selection, but I quietly observed the new guys as they ran through three hours of practice that included conditioning drills, skills drills, and some competitive gameplay.

There are a couple of new guys who piqued my interest based on their athleticism, current conditioning, effort, shooting, ball-handling, defense, and what I look at very closely: their attitudes, facial expressions, and body language on and off the court. I asked our new color commentator, Jim Holtsclaw, his thoughts on the new players — he has far more advanced basketball knowledge than I do — and he shared an interest in the same guys.

Lyons co-owner, CEO, and head coach Tyrone Brown also said that he’s paying close attention to one of the new players that I identified.

So we’ll see. There is still training camp and preseason for everyone to survive, but we certainly have a nice group of talented young athletes who are showing interest in the Indiana Lyons.

As for veterans, almost everyone was back from last year’s team. Lleon Tillman and Mike Pugh have retired. Scootee Walker is taking some time away from the team to focus on personal matters. I know why, and I can assure you that it’s good personal matters instead of bad personal matters, but I’ll respect Scootee’s privacy and leave it at that. Sounds like we may see #11 back on the court at some point this season, though.

Scootee Walker is doing just fine. He’s just taking some time away from the team for a little bit. (Photo by TOPPLevel Entertainment, LLC)

The veterans who were at practice were Donnell Jones, Phil Bessick, Jordan Hidleburg, Tee Williams, Mike Carter, Jackson Stone, and Gerald “Cam” Campbell. Absent were Eric Messer and Kendric Lee. I heard Tyrone say that he knew Eric couldn’t be there and was fine with it, but I couldn’t hear what he said about Kendric’s absence. I think everything’s fine there, but I just couldn’t hear for sure over the noise in the gym.

All the veterans look to be in good shape, like they haven’t skipped a beat since April. That was good to see. Jackson continues to slim way down and show a lot more energy, speed, and endurance. He’s also sporting a shaved bald head. If you saw him when he joined the team in 2021-22, you’d barely recognize him now. I can’t even guess how much weight he has lost in the past year or more. The guy is a big kid at heart and a bundle of positive energy, and I love it!

There were some fireworks during practice between some of the veterans, but it was nothing more than raised voices. Pretty typical stuff when it comes to team sports, and I actually liked the fire in their bellies this early in the new season. I played high school football in Texas back in the dinosaur ages, and what I saw at the Lyons’ practice was nothing compared to what I experienced every day in Texas. Team sport athletes routinely have differences of opinion — especially those as competitive as the Lyons’ veterans are — and need to work things out amongst themselves. And our guys did. After practice, they were all hanging out together outside, chatting like the best of friends.

All told, it was a good day. The Lyons begin training camp in September and then start their preseason with the First Responders Game on Saturday, Oct. 7. If you haven’t already, check out the schedule here.

Fast Breaks

I hear rumor that Jordan Hidleburg is switching from #9 to #3 this season.

I’m liking Stone Wall Jackson as a new nickname for Jackson Stone. I might call him that in the preseason game videos and see how it works.

The Lyons will be offering another deal soon, where if you buy a Lyons jersey at The Locker Room, the jersey will serve as a game ticket! (Phil Bessick not included in purchase of this particular jersey…)

The Lyons were at the Indiana State Fair a few times this year, and while they were there, Tyrone struck up a conversation with the GM of the TBL’s Kokomo Bobkats. (TBL = The Basketball League) Tyrone implies that the Lyons and the Bobkats might be cooking up some sort of partnership with each other, but he’s playing this one close to the vest for now, so you now know what I know about that.

If you haven’t already seen it, the Lyons are offering multi-game ticket packages this season. Buy a 3-, 5- or 7-game package and use them at any games you want. It’s a money-saver to purchase the packages, too!

The team will be offering another jersey-for-tickets deal that’s going to be released in September and will get you into games for free if you purchase a jersey for yourself! Watch our social media and this website for more information on the ticket deal starting next week.

One of the new teams that we play against this season is the Columbus Wizards. They’re from Columbus, Ohio, not from Indiana. The Ohio Bruins’ ownership went their separate ways after last season (the Bruins still exist, and we play them this year), and one of those owners now owns and operates the Columbus Wizards. Makes for a nice weekend road trip when we can stay in the same town for both days.

Did you see the Louisville Pros on the schedule for this season? They are the former Naptown Pros, now relocated to Louisville.

Don’t read anything into the fact that we don’t play against the Clarksville Phoenix this season. They’re still around, and they’re in the Red Division of the Central Region with us. The two teams just couldn’t coordinate their schedules. It happens. I’m sure we’ll see them in the postseason.

Speaking of the new league alignment, don’t even get me started on that. Maybe that’ll be a topic for a future blog post.

I’ve heard rumor that the Music City Jazz aren’t returning to the ABA, in case you were wondering about them, too. They’ve been playing year-round in other leagues, so maybe they found a new home that suits them better? I don’t know. At any rate, we don’t have any regular season games scheduled against them.

Eric Ivie is the Director of Communications for the Indiana Lyons and also the team’s play-by-play commentator in their game videos. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Indiana Lyons or team owners Tyrone and Deborah Brown. 

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