As the first major American basketball event to take center stage during the coronavirus pandemic, The Basketball Tournament is set for its biggest year yet. It’s not just about the storylines — Carmen’s Crew seeking a repeat before Aaron Craft retires or Overseas Elite looking for revenge — but also about the new stars set to take the hardwood.
After breaking down all 24 teams in the bracket last week, we move a step closer to July 4 by looking at every squad’s best player.
William Buford, Carmen’s Crew (Ohio State alumni)
As TBT’s 2019 MVP, Buford helped lead Carmen’s Crew to its first title by averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game. While Craft could easily be mentioned here for his elite defensive skills and leadership, the two-time second team All-Big Ten selection gets the nod for his scoring punch and solid performance in an upset of Overseas Elite last year.
Joe Johnson, Overseas Elite
While no one will forget two-time TBT MVP D.J. Kennedy, Johnson is the most accomplished player in the tournament. He was selected as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft before reeling off seven All-Star appearances and a spot on the All-NBA third team in 2010. With a career average of 16 points per game in in 17 NBA seasons, there’s no doubt Johnson is must-see TV in Columbus.
Malachi Richardson, Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse alumni)
Between Tyler Lydon, Chris McCullough and Eric Devendorf, Boeheim’s Army has many candidates for the best player on its roster. Richardson stands out, though, as he played NCAA tournament hero in 2016 by helping Syracuse advance to the Final Four. Later that year, the one-and-done prospect was selected in the first round of the NBA draft.
Jamil Wilson, Golden Eagles (Marquette alumni)
Wilson poses as a major matchup nightmare for any opponent due to his versatility and range on offense, and his quickness and shot-blocking skills on defense. In 15 games with the LA Clippers in 2017, Wilson averaged seven points per game, including a 17-point outing in only 19 minutes vs. the Sacramento Kings.
Johnny O’Bryant III, Eberlein Drive
His NBA career never took off after being selected in the second round, but O’Bryant earned two first-team All-SEC honors and recorded more than 1,100 career points and 700 career rebounds at LSU. The 6-foot-9 forward transitioned overseas the past two years, where he became a 2019 Israeli League champion.
Marvelle Harris, Team Challenge ALS
Looking for a pure bucket getter? Well, this former Fresno State guard is your guy, as he averaged the fourth-most points in TBT last season and nearly 21 points per game during his senior campaign in college. Harris and ex-Philadelphia 76ers talent Casper Ware form what should be one of the most intriguing one-two backcourt punches in TBT.
Tony Wroten, The Money Team
Wroten played only one season at Washington, but the 6-6 guard had a monster campaign that concluded with the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award and a first team all-conference selection. He was drafted in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies, but he recorded the majority of his NBA success with the 76ers, including posting a triple-double in his first career start.
Dyshawn Pierre, Red Scare (Dayton alumni)
The four-year forward helped put the Flyers on the national map in 2014 by leading his school to its first NCAA tournament Elite 8 appearance since 1984. Pierre never made The Association, but the forward won the FIBA Europe Cup championship in 2019 and averaged over 20 points for the Broad Street Brawlers in the 2017 iteration of TBT.
Kaleb Wesson, Big X
Fresh out of college and looking to build his profile before the 2020 NBA draft, Wesson will be a mismatch in TBT. The second team All-Big Ten member nearly averaged a double-double in points and rebounds — while hitting 43% of his 3s — for Ohio State in his final season in Columbus.
Kyle Hines, Team Hines
This former UNC Greensboro talent is one of the most decorated Americans to play overseas. His credentials speak for themselves, as he has captured four EuroLeague championships and is a member of the all-decade team. A force on the glass and an excellent shot-blocker, Hines will decide how deep his squad advances in the bracket.
Novar Gadson, Team Brotherly Love
As a four-year player at Rider, Gadson averaged double figures in points in every campaign while maintaining impressive efficiency. That scoring success didn’t disappear in TBT as the 6-foot-7 guard led Team Brotherly Love to a surprising trip to the quarterfinals last summer by averaging 18.3 points per game.
Nate Mason, Team CP3
P.J. Hairston has the NBA experience, but Mason was the leading scorer and distributor on Team CP3 in 2019. Combine those stats with his college success at Minnesota — the school’s second all-time leader in assists and a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2017 — and Mason surely is one of the least appreciated guards in the bracket.
Isaiah Austin, Team Heartfire
Last summer was the first time Austin competed in an organized basketball league on American soil since being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. It was an overwhelming success, as the ex-Baylor big man was a force on defense, averaging 1.5 blocks per game. The 7-foot-1 center has played for eight organizations overseas since 2017, including his current squad in Puerto Rico, Mets de Guaynabo.
Dominique Jones, Armored Athlete
After finishing his South Florida career as the school’s fifth-leading all-time scorer, the 6-foot-5 guard was selected by the Grizzlies late in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft. He never had a consistent role at the NBA level and has bounced around overseas, but Jones went off in TBT in 2017, averaging 28 points per game for the Tampa Bulls.
Mike Daum, House of ‘Paign (Illinois alumni)
The Dauminator is back … as a member of the Illinois alumni team (yes, you read that right). The South Dakota State alum was a consistent, versatile force as he averaged a double-double in his final two collegiate seasons and became one of 10 players to top 3,000 career points in men’s college hoops history. Despite limited professional experience, the forward could still lead House of ‘Paign on a deep run.
Bryce Brown, War Tampa
As Auburn’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, Brown will likely be the spark that ignites War Tampa. The 6-foot-3 guard was a two-time second team All-SEC member and helped lead the Tigers to the Final Four in 2019, his final year on campus. While Brown hasn’t played in the NBA yet, he’s a member of the G League’s Maine Red Claws.
Marcquise Reed, Power of the Paw (Clemson alumni)
Originally a member of Robert Morris, the 6-foot-3 guard put himself on the map by scoring 41 combined points in two NCAA tournament games during his freshman season. The dynamic scorer opted to transfer to Clemson, where he racked up two All-ACC teams and was one of the main reasons the Tigers advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2018.
Isaac Haas, Men of Mackey (Purdue alumni)
At 7-foot-2, Haas brings incredible toughness and physicality on the interior. If Men of Mackey are going to pull a couple of upsets in the bracket, it’ll be up to his teammates to constantly feed the big man in order to capitalize on his advantages in the post. While his successful career at Purdue ended with a fractured elbow, Haas was still added to the Utah Jazz’s G League roster.
Marcus Hall, Mid American Unity
If you’re a fan of TBT, you surely are familiar with Hall, who dominated the 2016 bracket and took Team Colorado on an unexpected run to the final. While his success in this event stands out, the point guard was also a Bulgarian League MVP and champion in 2009.
Markel Brown, Stillwater Stars (Oklahoma State alumni)
Phil Forte is an Oklahoma State fan favorite, and Le’Bryan Nash is dangerously versatile, but Brown owns NBA experience with both the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets. As his collegiate stat lines indicate, the wing can impact the game in every facet, making him a critical piece to the Stars’ puzzle.
Jamel Artis, Sideline Cancer
The former Pittsburgh forward averaged 5.1 points and 2.5 rebounds during 15 games with the Orlando Magic in 2017-18. Artis’ experience in The Association and overseas combined with his ability to play inside-out while maintaining guard-like skills makes him a unique force for Sideline Cancer.
Jon Elmore, Herd That (Marshall alumni)
Elmore is Marshall’s all-time leading scorer, and the dynamic guard led his school to its first Conference USA title and a stunning upset over Wichita State in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament. Is it possible Elmore can bust the TBT bracket in similar fashion? We’ll see if the show-stopping talent can start with a replacement squad, Playing for Jimmy V, in the opening round.
Jaylen Barford, Jackson TN Underdawgs
Looking for a player who can single-handedly carry a team through The Basketball Tournament field? Barford has already proved his skills, as he stunned the nation by taking the Jackson TN Underdawgs to the quarterfinals in 2019 despite their No. 8 seed. While this field is deeper, there’s no way you can count out the former Arkansas scoring machine.
Josh Perkins, Playing for Jimmy V
Despite being a late replacement for Best Virginia, Playing for Jimmy V features this former Gonzaga point guard as its star talent. The two-time first team All-WCC honoree helped guide the Zags to the Final Four in 2017 and became the school’s all-time leader in assists. At 24 years old, Perkins’ professional career is just getting started as he is currently employed by the G League’s Texas Legends.
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