The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 16, 2020 1:40 pm

2 of 3 teams with area ties make TBT

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Three teams with solid ties to Fort Wayne were vying to get into The Basketball Tournament, a $1 million winner-take-all event.

Only two were chosen today for the 24-team field, after 120 teams applied.

Men of Mackey, a first-year team of Purdue alumni that includes Fort Wayne natives Rapheal Davis and Grady Eifert, was picked to play in the single-elimination event. Eberlein Drive was chosen, too. Men of Mackey’s and Eberlein Drive’s managers are, respectively, Ryan Kay and Matt Mitchell, longtime friends and former teammates from Blackhawk Christian.

However, the Fort Wayne Champs, who feature several former Mad Ants players, weren’t selected for the abbreviated field despite a strong history in TBT.

“I am very disappointed that we did not make the field,” said Champs manager Garrett Martz, a player agent based in Fort Wayne. “While I appreciate TBT had an impossible task in selecting the teams, I felt we checked all the boxes of the selection criteria they provided teams.

“But don’t count us out yet. Remember, Fort Wayne Champs is the only team to make the Super 16, in 2018, after being left out of the initial bracket.”

Indeed, there is a possibility that some teams bracketed Tuesday won’t be in the field when the tournament begins July 4 because there may be no-shows or those who cannot meet the health restrictions amid COVID-19. But the Champs weren’t named among the two alternates.

The Champs’ roster includes Ben Moore, Trey McKinney Jones, Stephan Hicks, Travis Leslie and Sadiel Rojas. The Champs reached the TBT semifinals in 2015, when they were known as Ants Alumni, and had been in the field every year since.

The field was chosen based on marketability, reliability that they would show up with their full squads, and talent level.

TBT, historically a 64-team event for $2 million, was pared down for safety reasons and because it was more difficult to get commitments this year. It will, for the first time, be held in one city -- Columbus, Ohio, at Nationwide Arena -- and teams will be quarantined.

TBT will run through July 14. It will be the first televised basketball on U.S. soil -- to be broadcast on ESPN networks -- since the Big East Tournament in March.

Carmen’s Crew, a team of Ohio State alumni, won TBT last year and is the top seed this year.

Men of Mackey’s roster has former IPFW player Frank Gaines and former Purdue players such as Isaac Haas, Jon Octeus and Ryan Cline. Kay, a financial adviser in Fort Wayne, is a former president of the Fort Wayne chapter of the Purdue Alumni Club and current chairman of finance for the Purdue Alumni Board. Men of Mackey were seeded 19th.

“We are really excited to be selected as one of the 24 teams in TBT this summer, especially as a first-year team,” Kay said. “We can’t wait to play for the Boilermaker faithful around the globe and for Tyler Trent (the superfan who died in 2019).

“We’re incredibly thankful to the TBT organization for giving us an opportunity to play this summer. The robust health and safety plan they have implemented is impressive and we can’t wait to get to Columbus to get started.”

Mitchell, a health-care consultant in Crown Point, has been involved with TBT since its inception in 2014. He helped Eberlein Drive to a runner-up finish in 2018. This year’s roster includes seasoned pros such as J.P. Macura, Josh Magette and Tim Quarterman. Eberlein Drive was seeded fifth.

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