Photos By Wonder Boy Media
Under owner Chris Allison and head coach Mark Anderson, the Owensboro Thoroughbreds are off to a hot start in the 2022 season. Allison assumed ownership in late 2019, bringing an exciting brand of basketball with him by way of Anderson.
The pandemic significantly halted Allison’s many aspirations for his first season at the helm, but the program has bounced back stronger than ever. After going 8-2 to open the season primarily on the road, the Thoroughbreds will return home to the SportsCenter for a long home-game stretch and an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth.
“We’re doing well when it comes to the basketball side of things,” Allison said. “We’re first in our division and conference with some big games coming up. We recorded our largest attendance ever for our season-opener, nearly doubling our previous record.”
Allison viewed Owensboro as a prime city and saw the franchise as an excellent opportunity, slightly underestimating the challenges ahead. He knew a complete re-branding was necessary and immediately embarked on some community-involvement efforts.
“We came in with many expectations but no realistic opportunities to execute our plan because of the pandemic,” he said. “We came back with the same plan, doing as much as possible in the community, offering free clinics, school mentorships, partnering with nonprofits, theme nights, and more.”
As COVID-19 restrictions weakened, Allison and company kicked off last season by hosting the first basketball tournament for youth in the area. He was so passionate about helping kids return to the court that he even invested $20,000 of his own money in the efforts.
For the 2022 season, the Thoroughbreds wear different jerseys for every home game that align with their themed nights. The themes typically revolve around their partnerships with nonprofits, donating revenue collected from auctioning off the jerseys, and a portion of the ticket sales.
Allison said the franchise had donated more than $75,000 to nonprofit organizations in the area.
“We want to engage with the community and offer a great gameday experience with championship-caliber basketball,” he said. “Our organization is solely for the community – we want to be an asset. We’re focused on building the future and developing infrastructure. We’re here to stay, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Professional basketball in the city dates back to the Owensboro Bisons and Mavericks. In 2017, the Kentucky Thoroughbreds were formed to participate in the North American Premier Basketball League (NAPB).
The NAPB rebranded as The Basketball League (TBL) in 2019. The team converted its name to the Owensboro Thoroughbreds and Allison ushered in a new culture of commitment to long-term development within the community.
The TBL has grown exponentially in just four short years, growing from eight teams in year one to a present-day 44.
Head coach Mark Anderson considers Owensboro and the Sports Center as prime locations for professional basketball. He said the facility alone ranks them at the league’s top for venues.
“I grew up in Indiana, and if you’re going to coach basketball in two states, why not Indiana and Kentucky?” Anderson said. “When I had the opportunity to come down here, I jumped at it. It’s a perfect-sized market and a beautiful location. I love unwinding at the riverfront before or after practice.”
Darhius Nunn joined the team last season and is grateful for the opportunity to continue to play basketball at a high level.
“I’m very thankful. Without this organization, I most likely wouldn’t be playing basketball at this high of a level,” Nunn said. “I’m glad I’m able to play with such a well-respected organization.”
Anderson said he’s fortunate to be surrounded by high-character assistant coaches and players.
“Our style is up-tempo with discipline,” he said. “We have guys from several mid-major colleges, who are disciplined, possess a high basketball IQ, and are easy to coach. They love living here during the season and fit perfectly into our community outreach mold.”
Nunn and his teammates have some lofty expectations for the current season.
“The biggest team goal is winning the championship,” he said. “Our team is very talented, and I think a championship is definitely in an arm’s reach.”
To learn more about the Thoroughbreds and see the schedule and themes for their upcoming home games, visit their website at owensborothoroughbreds.com.