By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY — It was mid-April, a time when high school and college basketball had wrapped up and the NBA was getting ready for the playoffs — but the Atlantic City Gambits and The Basketball League were just warming up.
The Gambits, led by former Atlantic City High School star and overseas pro basketball veteran Frank Turner, bombed away from the 3-point line and dominated the paint at Atlantic City High School’s gymnasium for a 106-97 victory over the Lehigh Valley Legends.
It was the kind of entertaining, fast-paced and well-played game co-owner Geoffrey Dorsey and the Gambit had promised fans since establishing a franchise of The Basketball League in Atlantic City.
The Gambit ended their season 21-5 and averaged 102 points per game, one of the highest totals in the league. They lost to the veteran Albany Patroons 2-0 in the second round of the playoffs in June. Dorsey said while the second-round loss was disappointing after having such a stellar season, he believes bigger and better things are headed for the Gambits — and the fans who are sticking with the franchise.
“Albany’s franchise has been around for about 30 years and has a little more established administration,” Dorsey recently told Front Runner New Jersey. “It was a little disheartening because we only had five losses all season and the totality of those losses was about 20 points. It came down to about one possession every game.
“It was a great season and on the coaching side, the administrative side, we’re doing our best. We are expecting to go further next season.”
Dorsey said the team will be looking to gain more financial support from donors and sponsors so they can be more competitive with other teams in the leagues. He said those funds would allow them to move more than their players closer to Atlantic City to they can practice and develop more with the team.
He said a nonprofit they are playing to form, Gambit Junior, will hold youth basketball camps and development sessions. Dorsey said he hopes to continue to build relationships in the community that will help them grow the franchise and engage youth in the region.
Dorsey, the local construction company owner, was involved with the Gambit from the grassroots level, even to helping measure the NBA distance 3-point line on the gymnasium floor of Atlantic City High School, where the team plays their home games.
Gambit organizers said they have received support from Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, himself a former minor league basketball player who starred at Atlantic City High School and nearby Stockton University, where he is the all-time leading rebounder.
Dorsey and co-owner De Ward said they are working on gathering more support from local corporations to help the franchise grow along with what they want to do in the community.
“One of our biggest challenges is getting the word out about our games and actually having fans see that we have a team playing a high-level of basketball,” Ward told Front Runner New Jersey in April during the Lehigh Valley Legends game. “Right now we are ascending and have a chance to go all the way.”
The Basketball League, of TBL is the former North America Premier Basketball (NAPB) that started operating in 2018 with eight teams. It now has expanded to more than 49 teams as of 2023.
The Basketball League is a professional basketball league providing player salaries from $500 to $6,500 per month while teams operate on a budget of $125,000 to $250,000 per season.
Ward said he would like to see the crowds grow as the word gets out. During the April 15 game against the Legends, the late-arrive crowd nearly filled half of the gymnasium — a good crowd but Gambit organizers said they want more to enjoy the play of the team.
Those who were there, though, left entertained with the sharp-shooting Gamits as they jumped out to a big lead only to see the Legends put on an impressive shooting display of their own in the final quarter to creep back into the game and challenge the Gambits down the stretch.
“I’m hoping we can grow out of this,” Ward said. “We’re just in Year 2 of this so on one hand we’re doing pretty well but on the other hand, we want to do more marketing in our region and get more people out. There is a community benefit for us being here right now. I would love for us to expand to the point of playing our games in Boardwalk Hall.
Turner said this past season was his last as a player. He also acted as general manager while leading the team in assists and shooting percentage.
“I only played this year because we couldn’t find a point guard,” Turner said with a laugh in April. “Since then, we found a couple of guys who can play it, so this is definitely my last year. Basketball is my first love and I’ve enjoyed this last go-around.”
Turner played 12 years overseas in countries like France, Bulgaria, Poland and the Netherlands before returning home. He left Atlantic City to attend Canisius College. Turner had a stellar career at Canisius and was inducted into the college’s basketball Hall of Fame in 2022.
“It means a lot to the community to have a team like this year and is also means a lot to these players to have an opportunity to play professionally like I did. To be able to get seen by scouts from overseas and maybe G League and the NBA is huge. It’s also great for the kids to see this kind of basketball and the opportunities that are out there.”
For the second straight year, the Atlantic City Gambits has provided that opportunity and organizers said they hope the community to take a chance on them next season.
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