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The Kentucky Basketball Developmental League
By Valerie Burke

The NBA Draft doesn't mean much to Cliff Todd, Commissioner of the Kentucky Basketball Developmental League. His players in the KBDL won't be drafted and they probably won't ever play in the NBA; but they do play;
and play well !!!

These kids play with a fire inside them. They have hope, they have a dream, and thats what pushes them on, Todd said. KBDL was founded on the basis of those dreams.

After spending some time looking into the ABA and the USBL, Thom McQueen, always the maverick, decided to create and develop his own league, contacted Cliff Todd, and the KBDL was born. We designed the league to be part of Kentucky, with Kentucky players, Kentucky Coaches and Kentucky teams, said Thom. The league was presented to the State of Kentuckys Sports Authority in Frankfort and not only did they give him the green light, they assisted in the creation of the league. They took two years off of the development time, and gave us instant credibility. They were amazing, Thom said.

KBDL is a fundamental developmental basketball league, a minor league system to develop and train young talent for the International Professional Basketball Leagues, as well as sportsmanship and integrity both on and off the court. KBDL is committed to making a positive impact in Kentucky.

KBDL will enter its 4th season with eight teams. Over the past 3 seasons, they have sent more than 30 players on to play pro basketball in one form or another. They have even helped send two of their coaches into the college ranks and one with an offer to coach in another minor leagues. They expect to send 20 or so more players this year. With what this little league has to offer though, its no wonder.

Each team has a Captain/Mentor. Their job is to teach and train these kids to play beyond their college experience and at a higher level. Anthony Epps is the best example that comes to mind. What Anthony does with the players is nothing short of amazing.

Their management team consists of former Pros and College coaches as well as businessmen. Their advisory group runs the gamut from businessmen and bankers in Kentucky to Rick Petterwood ( in Australia, to Jackson Zhao in China, to agents, coaches, scouts and fans. They have their own Agents, Scouts and Advisors and even have their own newspaper (The Full Court Press) to cover their teams and league.

Exposure, said James Scott, coach of the Express, Exposure is what these kids need. They have the talent. Some of these players are great, they simply need exposure to reach the next level. Coach Scotts Son, Akeem, is an all-American playing for the Express and waiting for his shot.

Some of the KBDL players are waiting; some have returned. We have a lot of players that we have helped get to Pro Basketball that returns to play for us, simply because we helped them get there, Said Commissioner Todd. Thats a good feeling; thats the type of kids we have.

KBDL is selective in their choice of players. We dont allow thugs in our league; said Ernie Robinson, GM of the Lancers, when someone signs one of our players, they know up front that he is a good, respectful kid. Thats our reputation on the line, John Bell, assistant coach of the Lancers, threw in. If a player acts up, it reflects on us. Thom had a different and simple approach, If a players pants are showing his underwear; pull em up. Its normal to hear the players say yes Sir and no Sir.

For the fans, they require their players to stay on the court for at least 15 minutes after a game to meet and greet the fans. Kevin Listerman, coach of the Northern Kentucky Thunder, even has his players go into the audience shaking hands and thanking them for coming.

We chose the developmental part of the name intentionally, explained Todd. We want to help develop the whole person, not just the athletic part. We want to help develop the players as a whole.

In that realm, each team has a Chaplain and has access to personal and financial counselors as well as athletic counseling. We dont want to be their Mother, but we want to be there if we are needed. As you talk to the coaches and management, you know that what they say is real, that they really do love these kids and want the best for them.

Each team is required to be involved in a Ministry and each team is required to be involved in the community. The teams do everything from giving out winter coats to participating in health fairs&; to giving free seminars and clinics to kids. They have even provided T-Shirts for a Ministry in Surduc, Rumania, ran by South Laurels Steve Wright. Our teams are an active part of the communities and a good corporate citizen. Not just taking from a community, but giving back and becoming part of that community explained Thom.

Merritt Paulson, "owner" of Portland Timbers and Portland Beavers Said Any sports owner, first and foremost, has to understand you can be an owner from a legal standpoint, but you never truly own the team. The community owns the team.

Basketball is a global sport, professionally played on six continents. The need for American players has grown exponentially. Almost all nations of the world have some kind of professional basketball, and the job market is there for players from Kentucky as well as the United States. Now that basketball leagues are growing in China and Korea, even more slots are opening. They jobs may not be endless, but for a player with talent, the opportunities can be fantastic.