A few weekends ago, I had the chance to coach a group of former Division I and professional basketball players in the first annual TBT Basketball Tournament held at Philadelphia University. For someone with dreams of one day running their own NBA franchise, this platform provided me and others with the rare opportunity to recruit who ever we wanted to play in this 32-team, single elimination open tournament.
Did I mention that the winner takes home half a million dollars? The combination of these elements were certainly enough to attract over 150 teams from all over the United States to submit their roster in hopes of being selected.
Perhaps no game better represented the uniqueness of the event than the second round matchup between Team Barstool and PUBB Champions. Team Barstool, was composed of NBA talent Josh Boone, Andre Barrett, Matt Walsh and Dahntay Jones. PUBB Champions (Princeton University Alum), on the other hand, was made up of former Ivy League teammates that had back-doored their competition to death by running the vaunted Princeton Offense.
In this particular game, Princeton made Barstool’s leading scorer Dahntay Jones (22 PPG) earn his 10 points the hard way (only 1 made FG), and as a result Princeton gave themselves a chance to win it at the end. Unfortunately for the Ivy Leaguers, they missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer and the tournament favorite, Team Barstool, moved on to the next round.
But that’s what made this event so great. Where else has a matchup of these polar opposites ever been possible?
Putting Together “Rep Your City”
My good friend and former AAU teammate Tony Gallo reached out to me about TBT. Tony started at point guard for Coppin State where he averaged over 17 points per game before graduating in 2012. He contacted me because he thought that having the opportunity to put together a group of pro ball players aligned with my career goal of working in the NBA. Tony was right.
Could I have put myself on the roster? Sure. But after finishing my collegiate career last year at the Division III level, I figured I might as well get a head start on my post-playing career in basketball.
I bought in right away and started to use connections I’ve developed over the years in the basketball world and here at Dime to start recruiting. I reached out to former beloved Celtic Brian Scalabrine, but his coaching contract with Golden State wouldn’t allow him to participate. I reached out to a local New England guy with close ties to Ricky Ledo (Dallas Mavericks) and Erik Murphy (Utah Jazz), but their contracts wouldn’t allow them to participate either. I also went after Alex Oriakhi (Phoenix Suns), who I played in a few high school all-star games with. Unfortunately, he was unable to play as well. My former college teammate got in touch with James Ennis (Miami Heat), who he played in Junior College with. But, once again, no dice.
At this point I realized that I may run into the same road block with most NBA Players currently under contract, so I decided to change my approach.Subscribe to UPROXX
Back in March, I wrote a feature on NBA hopeful Aquille Carr that highlighted his road less traveled to the league, including his stops in China and the NBA D-League. I stayed in touch with his new agent Daniel Hazan of Hazan Sports Management and proposed the idea of Aquille playing on our squad. I figured that after being out of the limelight since January, this would be the perfect opportunity for people to see the 5-6 dynamo once again play on the big stage. Once Aquille hopped on board, it was easier for me to attract big name players.
But before I added any nationally known names, I shored up our teams depth at the point guard position, adding former teammate and childhood friend Akeem Williams. Williams has flown under the radar but scored 2000-plus points at UMASS—Lowell and led the American East in scoring this past season with 16 points a game. Just days before TBT, the Boston Celtics brought in the local product to participate in their pre-draft workout with projected first rounders Adreian Payne and Clint Capela at their practice facility in Waltham.
After getting set at the guard position, I contacted another childhood friend, Nick Friedman, who is a student-manager at the University of Miami. Nick put me in contact with 6-6 wing Garrius Adams, who finished up his career with the Hurricanes this past season. I told GA that we needed some bigs for our squad and he put me in contact with the former 6-11 Miami duo of Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble. Kadji finished up his season playing for the Rio Grande Vipers of the D-League this past season after a stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers while Gamble starred for Saint Vallier of France where he averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds this past season.
At this point, I had a couple of spots to fill out the roster. Via social media, I went after 6-5 Marcus Lewis of Eastern Kentucky. Marcus won the 2014 ESPN/State Farm College Slam Dunk Contest this past April after completing a series of silly dunks. I knew that pairing him up with Aquille would make for one of the most exciting backcourts in the tournament.
Lastly, I identified 7-0 Center Jordan Henriquez who played for the Houston Rockets earlier this season before teaming up with Kenny in the D-League. After adding him last minute, all of a sudden, we had the biggest frontcourt in the entire event.