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Local Couple Launches Indiana Lyons ABA Basketball Team In Hendricks County

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing

Photography  / Provided

Basketball lovers, it’s time to rejoice as a brand-new team is coming to town— the Indiana Lyons. Older generations may recall the American Basketball Association (ABA), a men’s professional basketball league that existed from 1967 to 1976 until the ABA merged with the National Basketball Association. Legendary players like George McGinnis and Julius Erving (aka Dr. J) ruled the courts back in the day, dribbling the infamous red, white and blue ball.

The ABA, which relaunched in 2000, now has 150 teams across the United States, Mexico, Australia and the Bahamas. Last spring, local business owners Tyrone and Deborah Brown were invited to start a franchise in this area, and the Indiana Lyons was born. The husband-and-wife team hit the ground running, lining up seven straight weeks of try-outs with men ages 18-38 who came from all parts of the state, including Columbus, Bloomington, Whitestown, Plainfield, Speedway, Danville, Ft. Wayne, Brownsburg and Indianapolis.

At tryouts, the Browns sought out men with skill, personality, education and maturity.

“We expect a culture of excellence, responsibility and loyalty,” says Tyrone, Owner & Chief Executive Officer of the Indiana Lyons. In addition, community service is a must for the team so they nurture an environment that breeds high character.

“These guys work together, serve together and play together,” Tyrone says. “We wanted individuals who think about the next player more than they think about themselves.”

Tyrone, originally from Chicago, has loved the game of basketball since he was young. He played in high school and in Pro-Am leagues, as well as several basketball tournaments in and around Chicago. He’s also run his own basketball tournaments so owning a team seemed like a natural next step.

“My husband would love to still play the game, but since he can’t this is an opportunity to still be involved in the game he loves while also doing something great for the community,” says Deborah, who co-owns with Tyrone several companies, including Second Chance Staffing LLC, which provides opportunities to ex-felons and those looking for a second chance.

“This is a judgment-free zone. Our responsibility is to help people get back on their feet,” Tyrone says.

The Indiana Lyons is also a second chance organization in that it is building and renewing relationships both on and off the floor. The Browns hope that the team will provide youth with a safe, fun, affordable environment to hang out. Tickets are only $10 for adults while kids under 5 and seniors over 65 get in free.

Head coach Wes Messer, who was part of the Indy Naptown All Stars, was eager to join the Indiana Lyons. The Browns were forthright with Messer that this was a new venture and as such, they couldn’t make any financial promises. Messer didn’t bat an eye. He was all-in, coming to practices with his family in tow.

“From the start, he’s shown his commitment,” Tyrone says. “He truly loves the game of basketball.”

They’ve also hired Pastor Craig A. Thurmon Sr. as Head of Basketball Operations, and Sr. Chaplin. Thurmon has many years of corporate experience, including 25 years as an Information Technology professional.

Assembling the staff and the team was easier than locating a venue. All ABA games need to take place on the weekend since these players have full-time jobs and travel from all over the state. Ultimately, the city of Danville welcomed the team with open arms and invited the Indiana Lyons to play at the historic Bosstick Gym, located at 49 N. Wayne Street. The Lyons will play on Saturdays at 5 p.m.

“That allows families to enjoy themselves, have dinner and still get the kids to bed at a decent time,” Tyrone says.

Bosstick Gym, which holds roughly 1,250 spectators, was erected in 1925 and has been essentially sitting vacant since 1960, so Danville is excited about revitalizing not only the gym, which is getting a major facelift by way of flooring, shot clocks and scoreboards, but also bringing a renewed energy to the community.

“We’re investing in them [Danville] because they’re investing in us,” Tyrone says. “It’s going to be a good marriage. Plus, we’re excited to hopefully bring some extra traffic to the town’s restaurants and small businesses.”

Bringing a pro team to Hendricks County as opposed to Indianapolis enables the community to really embrace the team as their own.

“The Indiana Lyons belongs to this county,” Tyrone says. “We want families, youth and parents to be a big part of this league.”

They’ll create that synergy by recruiting people to help with team equipment, jersey pick-up, locker room and concession stand. They’ll also ask boys and girls to help participate in ball boy duties. The Browns feel that getting kids in the mix teaches responsibility, obedience and respect.

“Children can’t help out if they’re not being obedient to their parents and if they’re not doing well in school,” Tyrone says. “We put the onus back on the children. They can tell their folks, ‘I’ve got my homework done and my Lyons shirt is on. Let’s go to the gym!’”

Down the line, the Browns plan to reach out to local high schools to connect with cheerleaders, pep bands, marching bands and color guards, as well as charitable nonprofit organizations like the armed services and first responders.

The Browns insist that while basketball and entertainment are great, that’s not the point behind their team.

“If our record is 19 and 0, but our community service is below standard, then we’ve missed the mark,” says Tyrone, noting that they will be implementing anti-bullying and literacy campaigns.

“Our players will be out in the schools reading to the students,” Tyrone says.

As for the anti-bullying campaign, the Browns hope that by bringing these young men together, young spectators will see that there’s something bigger than themselves that is available to them.

“They can reach out to others and step to that next level,” Deborah says. “That’s why we call this a second chance opportunity. This is how they’re going to move the needle in terms of community.”

The season, which runs from November 3 to March 23, includes 23 games, both at home and away. They’ll compete against teams in the North Central Region, including the South Bend Monarch, Kentucky Enforcers, Illinois Bulldogs and St. Louis Spirit. The 2018-2019 season kicks off on November 3 against the Chicago Steam.

“My vision is to see this gymnasium filled to the rafters,” Tyrone says.

For information about community programs, sponsorship, special nights, alumni games, internships and game-day opportunities, contact Tyrone Brown at tyronebrown@indianalyons.com. To learn more about the Indiana Lyons, visit indianalyons.com.

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