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As former NBA player Jim Jackson listens, Kelly Byrne, center, managing member of Say You Can LLC, and business partner and NBA player Anthony Tolliver, share insight during a July 2018 real estate panel discussion in Las Vegas.
Photo provided by Say You Can LLC.
As former NBA player Jim Jackson listens, Kelly Byrne, center, managing member of Say You Can LLC, and business partner and NBA player Anthony Tolliver, share insight during a July 2018 real estate panel discussion in Las Vegas.

Off-Court Deals: NBA veteran and Springfield native building business acumen

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While Anthony Tolliver has managed to craft a decade-plus playing career in the NBA, the Springfield native has been involved in real estate for almost as long.

Tolliver, who was signed July 3 by the Portland Trail Blazers to a one-year, $2.6 million contract, will soon be entering his 12th season in the NBA. However, over much of his professional athletic career, he hasn’t been content to just keep his focus on the court. Part of that entrepreneurial spirit led him to connect in 2009 with longtime friend Kelly Byrne. The two founded Springfield-based real estate development company Say You Can LLC.

“I have some disposable funds that I can invest and do things like real estate,” Tolliver said, declining to disclose investment totals. “So whenever one of my best friends that I grew up with decided to go into real estate, it was a natural partnership. It’s been a great ride so far.”

Flipping houses
Say You Can started with the two flipping single-family houses, transitioning in 2013 to renovating and redesigning apartments and townhouses for student housing, Byrne said. Several of those completed projects are located close to the Missouri State University campus, according to the company’s website, including The Corner at Campus Edge and The Flats at City Center.

The company has now added senior housing development to its project list with Black Rock, a 55-plus gated community of apartment homes in Nixa. Byrne said the $7.5 million development – by far the largest yet in cost for Say You Can – is now leasing several of its 29 units. The majority of the 1,500-square-foot villa-style units that include a two-car garage are set for completion this fall, he said. Black Rock is managed by TLC Properties Inc., a division of Coryell Collaborative Group. Eric Stuhlsatz of ELS Construction is general contractor, with Jeff Wells of PlaceMakers Architecture LLC as project architect.

Although Black Rock will be finished in the next few months, it’s not the only senior housing project for Say You Can. A couple of 55-plus community developments are the planned in Omaha, Nebraska, Byrne said, with groundbreaking expected in 2020 and 2021. It’s the second community outside of the Springfield area where the company has pursued projects – the other being Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like Springfield, Tolliver has a connection to both out-of-state communities, as he’s played three seasons during his career for the Minnesota Timberwolves, including 2018-19, and graduated in 2007 from Creighton University in Omaha.

“We’ve definitely been in growth mode. It’s an interesting thing when each project you do is bigger than the last,” Byrne said, declining to disclose company revenue.

He estimates the company has approximately $20 million in total assets under its management, with the majority of those projects in Springfield. Up next is a redevelopment for an East Cherry Street pocket neighborhood. The company has made a $1.4 million investment for six attached, single-unit residences in the Rountree neighborhood. Byrne said construction should start by late summer or early fall.

“We’ve built up a pretty good-sized portfolio of residential, both single-family and multifamily properties,” he said.

The company name is a tribute to Tolliver’s mom, Donna Lewis, who died in 2008 prior to its formation, Byrne said. She regularly attended her son’s high school games, shouting, “Say you can, baby,” from the stands.

Staying connected
It’s been 17 years since Tolliver graduated from Kickapoo High School – a thought that gave him pause after he calculated the passage of time since he last lived in Springfield.

He said it’s the people, both family and friends, that keep him connected to his hometown. Aside from his partnership in Say You Can, he’s also teamed up with longtime friends Ralph Duda III and Dane Watts on separate Springfield-based ventures.

With Duda, he’s a part-owner of Lil’ Anglers LLC, which focuses on childrens’ fishing products, such as the Kid Casters line of youth fishing kits. He’s also a co-owner with Watts, Bryan Simpson and Josh Stewart in Big Blanket Co., which raised more than $94,000 in January through a crowdfunding campaign, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Nearly 600 people contributed to the campaign to fund production of 10-foot-tall by 10-foot-wide polyester and spandex blankets. The company began production of its oversized blankets in January and sells the product via BigBlanket.com.

“I just continue to try and give back any way I can. Obviously, I partner up with people I trust,” Tolliver said. “The guys on the ground doing everything like Kelly, Ralph and Dane and those guys, they’re the experts at what they do. I just try to support them from a financial standpoint.”

Most of Tolliver’s investment attention remains in real estate, which he said he’s had an interest in for years.

That business experience landed Tolliver and Byrne in Las Vegas in July 2018, as the pair spoke on a panel about real estate at the inaugural National Basketball Players Association career summit. It was the first panel discussion the longtime friends have participated in together. But Tolliver said he frequently speaks on real estate and business ventures in general with the media and fellow NBA players.

“A lot of guys like being involved in real estate deals,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting into the right one.”

As he gets ready to join his new team in Portland next month, Tolliver said he’s always kept a close eye on business opportunities away from the hardwood.

“That’s what’s always motivated my real estate and everything else I do, is thinking about post career,” he said. “Being able to do something that I enjoy doing and do it with people I like and love. That’s the real reason I started doing real estate and all these different other businesses, so that whenever I decide to hang up the sneakers, the transition will be smooth.”

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