The Wichita Sky Kings, the city’s new professional basketball team, are trying to strike the delicate balance of fielding quality product with plenty of off-court entertainment to attract fans in their rookie season.
It’s the latest venture by businessman Ben Hamd, who has investments in Wichita, as he tries to build interest in a new basketball team in Wichita.
It offers competitive pay to attract skilled professionals and has already rented and paid for a full season of games for the team to play at Koch Arena, which instantly made the Sky Kings a top destination in the Basketball League.
To try and build interest for the opening weekend, Hamd has enlisted the services of actor Brian Baumgartner, best known for his role as Kevin Malone on the hit sitcom The Office, to meet fans at the opening of Sky Kings game week on March 17 and 19.
While Hamd handles marketing and entertainment, he left basketball to coach Sean Flynn, who was the men’s basketball coach at Pratt Community College from 2018-21.
With less than a month into the season, Flynn is confident the Sky Kings will bring entertainment to Wichita basketball fans.
“We’re bringing in legitimate pros who take it seriously and know their basketball,” Flynn said. “Ben is amazing with game day experience and he’s going to have a lot of celebrity cameos at the games. You take it and combine it with a good product on the floor and it will be a lot of fun. We will have a team that can really shoot the ball.
The most notable player signed is Teddy Allen, who rose to stardom last season in college basketball at New Mexico State, where he scored 37 points to lead the Aggies to an NCAA Tournament upset in Connecticut. Allen also spent a redshirt year with the Shockers, but ultimately never played for the team.
Allen helped recruit two other former New Mexico State players in Terrell Brown, a guard who shot 43% on 3s in a season and was a former WAC all-player, and Johnny McCants, a 6-foot forward and 7 who was an all-Defensive Team WAC player under Chris Jans last season.
It’s clear that Flynn has his sights set on shooting, as he’s tapped into his college coaching connections to recruit players. He points out that every player on Wichita’s roster has made at least 40 percent of their 3-pointers at some level, both in college and in the pro ranks.
“We have kids one through five who can shoot rock,” Flynn said. “Everyone in our team is capable of shooting.”
That has helped him get some of the best shooters available in Charlie Marquardt, a former Division 2 sharpshooter who hit 14 3-pointers in a game in TBL last season, Kam Williams, a 2018 Ohio State grad who he averaged 17.1 points in Denmark last year, and Matt Cerruti, a recent Albany grad who hit 45% of his 3-pointers and averaged 11.3 points last season.
Other signings include veteran point guard Derrick Colter, a 4-year starter at Duquesne who has played overseas in France, Ukraine, Switzerland and Portugal, Jachai Simmons, a 6-7 swing man who averaged 21ppg in the TBL last season, Julian Winton, a 2018 Tabor graduate who averaged 25 points in the TBL last season, and Damari Milstead, who just finished his college career averaging 12.1 points at Cal State Fullerton.
The team is currently holding a training camp with two workouts a day at Calvary Church on Rock Road and holds lift sessions at downtown The Phoenix. Flynn said Wichita will play two scrums before the season and hopes to make an addition or two when the NBA G-League season ends.
“We have guys who’ve played pro ball in a bunch of countries,” Flynn said. “And then we have an assortment of rookies who are just coming out and have been playing at a high level. Maybe they missed the boat getting into the G-League or just got there late, but that’s a good starting point for a lot of these guys.”