The Southern Illinois Pharaohs are back in Carbondale after being absent since the 2017 season, bringing a professional minor league basketball team back to the area.
The Pharaohs started their season recently with a road trip to Fort Wayne, IN, where they played the IU Royalty and won by a score of 109-93.
The Pharaohs, part of the Official Basketball Association, started their inaugural season in 2016. However, after an Achilles tear by team owner and player Justin Dentmon, as well as COVID-19 concerns, the team never returned for their 2018-2021 seasons.
Dentmon, currently a professional basketball player for the Guaynabo Mets, acts as both a player, owner and mentor for the athletes on his team. His role is a bit different from a traditional owner role, but he said he’s just doing what he can for the team.
“I’m just helping as much as I can. I’ll be playing in a couple games because a lot of people over here don’t get to see me play because I go overseas and play. So, this will give the community a chance to see me play again and maybe a good homecoming,” Dentmon said.
Dentmon saw an opportunity to bring the team back after creating his own gym in the Carbondale area for the team to practice and compete. Before, the team was running all throughout Carbondale just to find places to have home games at. From Carbondale High School to Giant City, the team was playing at various locations in southern Illinois for their home games.
Dentmon said he wanted to bring some professional players that can act as role models closer to Carbondale.
“Kids haven’t seen professionals this close, so I’m trying to build a professional atmosphere so now the kids can see what a professional looks like, and so they’re prepared for the next level,” Dentmon said. “We’re just trying to build a professional organization to help these guys in the near future if they’d like to play overseas or in the NBA one day.”
Dentmon is the owner, but Scott Edgar will be calling the shots as head coach of the team. Edgar has experience coaching various college programs, including Murray State, Duquesne, Eastern Oklahoma State and Southeastern Missouri State. Edgar said he’s hoping to bring a lot of excitement to the area.
“People in this part of the country really enjoy basketball. They see great basketball in the winter season, so, hopefully, we can be just as exciting,” Edgar said. “There are a lot of local kids in this, so it’s giving a chance for the youth to watch a lot of older players play and learn from that, and it also gives a lot of these young men a chance to extend their careers in basketball.”
Edgar gave his praise to Dentmon for being such a huge leader, not only for the team but in the Carbondale area.
“They look up to Justin a lot. I knew he was a tremendous player here and from what I’m learning he’s a tremendous role model here and a lot of them look up to him,” Edgar said. “I’m learning some of the pro techniques from him and implementing some things from college I learned. He’s been great for them,” Edgar said.
Edgar said he believes this is a huge opportunity for up-and-coming basketball athletes to gain more professional experience.
“It’s a great resume builder. This is an opportunity for some guys to start their first professional resume and others to strengthen what they’ve already established. This is just a few months of opportunity here, [but] The function of this is to help these young men become better and get recognized so they can further their basketball career,” Edgar said.
Luqman Lundy is one player Edgar is hoping to further their resume in a professional setting. Lundy made the roster after an extensive training camp and tryout period before the season began. He said the tryout period was necessary for team bonding.
“The point of training camp is the camaraderie of the team and getting through all those difficult drills and stuff like that together. [We’ve] got a good sense of each other now and good chemistry even though it’s a hectic roster at times,” Lundy said.
Lundy said a winning culture is what they’re looking to build at the moment.
“I hope we bring an exciting brand of basketball and build a great outlet outside of SIU or other sporting outlets around here. We want to make a name for ourselves as the Pharaohs,” Lundy said.
Dentmon said the team’s style of play is very high tempo, they’re still hashing out some things for the player’s assignments.
“We play very fast. Coach wants to play fast, and we want to press the ball. We want to get up and down the court so everybody can score,” Dentmon said. “I’m also trying to help [Edgar] understand some things about the professional world. With him transitioning from college, it’s a bit different. Everybody is just trying to learn their roles, and once everybody gets that we’ll be alright.”
Edgar said he acknowledges some of the things the team is going to have to overcome in order to earn some wins throughout the season.
“We’re still a work in progress right now with certain things. We play on a 24-second shot-clock rather than a 30-second one so it’s quick to begin with, but you have to make good decisions while you play quick. We just have to learn to play with each other and learn each other,” Edgar said.
Lundy has a message for people considering coming out and watching the team play.
“There’s a lot of local guys here, and it’s just going to be some fun basketball. We’re doing our best and going to get as many wins as we can, so if you want to see some winning then I suggest you come watch us play,” Lundy said.
Edgar said he wants the support for the local team as well and thinks people will be entertained.
“We got a great guy that’s given back to the community here in Mr. Dentmon, so come out and support him and see the product that we’re putting out on the floor. I think [everyone will] be entertained and have fun watching us play,” Edgar said.
The Pharaoh’s home games will be played at the Dentmon Center in Carbondale. Their next home game will be against the Music City Kings, Saturday, April 23 with a 6:30 p.m. first tip.
Sports reporter Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @Jojobernard2001. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.