LANSING, Mich. – The Lansing Pharaoh’s inaugural season was successful, especially for a team in their first-ever season. Led by first-year head coach Scott Newman and a diverse cast of players, primarily from Michigan, the team was able to finish third in the Upper Midwest Division of The Basketball League (TBL) and make the playoffs. Coach Newman was a former assistant head coach for the Windsor Express of the NBLC (National Basketball League of Canada) before joining the Pharaohs for the 2022 season.
The Pharaoh’s roster was compiled of players with a large variety of collegiate experience, ranging from NAIA athletes to athletes from major D1 universities. Professional experience and age also varied heavily as the team mixed aspiring young players getting their first experience in professional basketball and veterans with extensive international professional careers looking to return to the US to finish their careers at home. Age varied from 23 to 37 on the Pharaoh’s roster this season.
The season featured many roster changes, beginning with F, Nana Kodom-Ayensu, who was waived a third of the way through the season. Kodom-Ayensu’s departure was followed by the loss of three-point specialist and G, Lance Adams, who signed a contract with the London Lightning of the NBLC and left the Pharaohs to become a solid role player on a squad that would go on to win the 2022 NBLC championship. The Pharaohs would then pick up athletic Lansing native G/F, Brandon Suttles, who was drafted 6th overall in the TBL draft but could not reach a deal with the team that drafted him, Toledo Glass City.
Following the All-Star break (the mid-point of the season), the Pharaohs would lose their star SF, Muhammed El-Amin, after El-Amin mutually agreed to leave the team. El-Amin averaged 19 PPG at the time of his departure. Lacking forwards, the team would sign G/F, Jalen Sykes, who agreed to join the team and leave the Windsor Express. Starting center, Rozelle Nix, would suffer a season-ending ankle injury two-thirds of the way through the season, leading coach Newman to bring in a familiar face in C, Deandre Thomas, a player Newman had coached while at Windsor. Veteran G, Maurice Benson would also leave the team two-thirds of the way through the season.
The season began with a road trip to Ohio that yielded an 0-2 start for the Pharaohs after losing to a poor Dayton squad in the final minute of the game and then falling to Toledo Glass City, the Upper Midwest Division champions, on a buzzer-beater. The Pharaohs would return home frustrated knowing work would need to be done if they wanted to start winning games. The team would prepare for their first home game, a matchup between Flint United, a game the Pharaohs couldn’t lose. That night the team played one of their, if not the, most exciting games of the season as they came back from down 4 with 20 seconds left to send the game to overtime and then pull off the win in OT. Following this win, the Pharaohs would go 5-1 in their next six games as the team would begin to jell and find their groove as they entered the All-Star break with a 6-3 record.
At this point of the season, PF Sam Muldrow, and C, Rozelle Nix, had created a dominant “Twin Towers” presence by clogging the paint on defense, blocking shots, grabbing boards, and scoring relentlessly against undersized competition when needed. Meanwhile, SF, Muhammed El-Amin, and SG, Ja’Myrin Jackson, took on the brunt of the scoring responsibilities as both players were liable to score in bunches at any given moment. At the same time, El-Amin also played a prominent role as a rebounder. Guards Maurice Jones and Latin Davis took turns running the point as they each dished out their fair share of assists while both being serious scoring threats.
Following the All-Star break, the Pharaohs would return to action with a roster that would be seriously shaken up over the break. Muhammed El-Amin would depart from the team, and G/F, Jalen Sykes, and G/F, Brandon Suttles, would be brought onto the team, while G, Carlton Brundidge, would be brought up from the team’s list of reserves. The team would go 2-1 in their next weekend of play, with their one loss occurring at the end of the three-game road trip. Following these three games, the Pharaohs would meet the Flint United at home for the second time and handle the team with ease, winning by 17 points, with the one downside being Rozelle Nix sustaining a season-ending injury halfway through the game. The Pharaohs would then host the Detroit Hustle for a historic Sunday afternoon game that featured a season-high score of 154 points as they dismantled Detroit behind a franchise-record 44-point performance by Latin Davis.
The Pharaohs would improve to 10-4 as things would begin to heat up in the Upper Midwest Division of the TBL. The Jamestown Jackals sat in first place with a 12-3 record while the Pharaohs maintained second place by .5 games, followed closely by Toledo Glass City, who sat in third place with a 10-5 record. At this point, the Pharaohs had only played Toledo once and had not matched up with Jamestown yet. However, this would all change as the Pharaohs would enter their most grueling part of the season. A stretch of the season that would feature four games against Jamestown, two against Toledo, and a game against the team that would go on to win the Midwest Division, the Kokomo Bobkats. Before embarking on this final stretch of the season, the Pharaohs would make one last roster move by bringing in C, Deandre Thomas, a player who Newman had previously known while coaching at Windsor.
The Pharaohs would go 5-5 in their last ten regular-season games. Splitting their series against both Jamestown and Toledo while recording poor losses to the Kokomo Bobkats and the Lebanon Leprechauns, during a weekend the team was missing two starters (Latin Davis and Ja’Myrin Jackson). The Pharaohs would also pick up two easy wins against the Dayton Flight and Flint United to end the regular season with a 15-9 record and the third-place position in the division, securing them a playoff spot. Highlights from this stretch of games include an exciting last-second home win against Toledo that came from SF, James Johnson, stealing the Toledo inbounds pass and swatting the ball up to Ja’Myrin Jackson, who took the ball to the rack for the game-winning layup and a statement home-victory against the #1 Jamestown Jackals in the last weekend of play of the regular season. The Pharaohs would join the Jamestown Jackals (record 19-5) and Toledo Glass City (16-8) in the playoffs as representatives of the Upper Midwest Division.
The second half of the season saw key contributions coming from similar players who led the team through the first half of the season. Ja’Myrin Jackson continued to be a reliable scorer and defender while taking on a more significant role as a rebounder in the absence of Muhammed El-Amin. El-Amin’s absence also allowed players like 3-point specialist James Johnson to take on larger offensive responsibility. At the same time, late-season addition Jalen Sykes proved to be a dynamic scorer when he got hot. Fellow late-season additions Brandon Suttles and Carlton Brundidge also brought several things to the table. Suttles added a spark to the team with his impressive athleticism, and Brundidge also proved to be a player who could score in bunches with his ability to drive to the hoop. In Rozzelle Nix’s absence, Sam Muldrow would have to serve as the team’s backbone, hauling down rebounds and being the team’s primary, and sometimes only, paint defender. Deandre Thomas would later take some of this weight off Muldrow when he would enter the game in short spurts in the last third of the season to rack up points quickly and defend the paint. Maurice Jones kept up his production for the remainder of the season, being a reliable scorer, passer, and playmaker. At the same time, Latin Davis improved every game honing his passing and scoring ability while continuously bringing his great attitude, making him one of the most valuable players on the Pharaoh’s roster.
At the end of the regular season, Latin Davis was named second-team all-conference in the Midwest Division of the TBL after having an incredible season that featured him winning a TBL Player of The Week Award during week 8 of the regular season. Davis was also a finalist for the TBL Rookie of the Year Award but did not win. After an impressive second half of the season, James Johnson would become a finalist for the TBL Six Man of the Year Award but would not win. Maurice Jones would finish the regular season with 6.7 APG and 2.2 SPG, ranking him fourth and seventh in the TBL in those categories. Sam Muldrow would finish the regular season with 2.2 BPG and 9.6 defensive RPG, ranking him second and third in the TBL in those categories, respectively. Accompanied by 15.8 PPG, many individuals inside the Pharaoh’s organization felt Muldrow had been snubbed from an all-conference team.
*Players must have played at least 14 games (½ of the season)
Top 3 Scorers:
- Ja’Myrin Jackson – 21.5 PPG
- Latin Davis – 18.5 PPG
- Sam Muldrow – 15.8 PPG
Top 3 Rebounders:
- Sam Muldrow – 11 RPG
- Ja’Myrin Jackson – 6.4 RPG
- Maurice Jones/Jalen Sykes – 4.5 RPG
Top 3 Passers:
- Maurice Jones – 6.7 APG
- Latin Davis – 5.1 APG
- Ja’Myrin Jackson – 2.2 APG
Following the regular season, the Pharaohs would face Toledo Glass City in the first round of the playoffs. The Pharaohs would develop a bit of a rivalry with Glass City after going 1-2 against them in the regular season, having two of the three games decided on the last play of the game, and consistently fighting each other for second place in the division throughout the season. The Pharaohs would play Glass City in a “best of 3” series that would feature one home game and two away games to determine who would advance. Beating Glass City would be no easy task, but the Pharaohs knew what they had to do: stop All-TBL second-team and TBL Rookie of the Year PG, Chris Darrington, who averaged 38.7 PPG against the Pharaohs during the regular season.
The Pharaohs would give Toledo their all but come up short in Game 1 after Toledo broke away from the Pharaohs in the fourth quarter despite a back and forth game up to that point. Game 1 would be a battle of the point guards as Latin Davis put up 28 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds in one of his best games of the season but was overshadowed by Chris Darrington’s 34 point, 7 assist, 6 rebound performance. Game 1 would end with a final score of 108-101. The Pharaohs would do everything in their power to stop Darrington in game 2, and this time they would succeed, holding him to just 24 points. However, with extra emphasis put on Darrington, Toledo took advantage of the situation and put guards Clemmye Owens (28) and DeVonte’ Pratt (23) in positions to score, allowing both to score over 20 points. The Pharaohs would give Glass City another hard fight that would come down to the fourth quarter again, but in an eerily similar fashion, the Pharaohs would let the game slip out of reach again in the fourth and lose 108-101.
Despite an early exit in the playoffs, the Lansing Pharaohs still had an extremely successful first season on and off the court. The Pharaohs put the TBL on notice this year with their impressive play as they shook up the Upper Midwest Division. While at the same time making their mark in the Lansing community with various community involvement efforts. Community involvement efforts included visiting local schools and giving out free tickets, giving out free tickets to various local youth groups, supporting local AAU programs, and volunteering at LMTS Community Outreach Services. Pharaoh’s games proved to be entertainment for the whole family and drew solid crowds consistently. At the end of the 2022 TBL season, Lansing Pharaoh’s owner, Chris Jackson, was awarded the 2022 CEO of the Year Award.
Chris Jackson poses with Evelyn Magley, the CEO of The Basketball League, after being awarded the CEO of the Year Award during the Midwest Division championship series.
The Lansing Pharaohs went 6-0 vs teams from Michigan (Detroit Hustle and Flint United), allowing them to secure the Member’s Only Championship Belt for the entirety of the season.
Former Pharaoh, Lance Adams, poses with the team after an exhibition matchup between the Lansing Pharaohs and Adams’s new team, the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada teams (NBLC). Next season games against NBLC opponents will count towards team records.