Red Scare ready for its moment on the TBT’s big stage

It’s first head coaching gig for Joey Gruden

The guy at the end of the bench for four seasons with the Dayton Flyers will be the man in charge Wednesday.

Joey Gruden put together a Dayton alumni team, the Red Scare, for The Basketball Tournament with the help of his fellow former UD walk-on Jeremiah Bonsu, and Gruden will coach the team this week by himself at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Bonsu wasn't able to get the time off from his job as a grad assistant with the Arkansas men's basketball program.

“It’s honestly a big stage,” said Gruden, who completed a two-year run as a graduate assistant at Louisville in the spring. “My first appearance is on ESPN. I talked to my dad and my uncle and guys like that. They just said, ‘Be confident. Have fun. And just enjoy the experience.’ They know my preparation. They know I know what I’m talking about.”

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Gruden’s dad is Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. His uncle is Jon Gruden, a former Flyer who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now coaches the Las Vegas Raiders. Joey doesn’t know if he’ll look like his dad or uncle on the bench.

“We’ll see when I call my first timeout,” he said. “Hopefully, I don’t get a technical or anything like that. I think it’ll be more fun. I’m more laid back than my uncle. I’m probably more like my dad.”

The Red Scare play Big X at 2 p.m. in the Round of 16 in the $1 million winner-takes-all event. All the games in the tournament are being televised on ESPN. Here are five things to know about the game:

1. Health factor: Every player in the tournament underwent two COVID-19 tests before arriving in Columbus and will undergo multiple rounds of testing during the tournament. One of the teams scheduled to play Monday in the Round of 16, Eberlein Drive, had to withdraw because a player tested positive. One positive test is all it takes for a team to be disqualified. Four teams were forced to withdraw before the tournament began.

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Members of the Red Scare had to stay in their hotel rooms for 24 hours after checking into the Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus on Friday. Ryan Mikesell, one of the eight Red Scare players, said it was hard waiting for the test results.

“I didn’t think it would be,” he said, “but once we got there and a couple of teams were knocked out when we were there, it was a little nerve-wracking.”

2. Practice time: The Red Scare have spent recent days hanging out in a common room at the Hyatt, watching game film, playing video games, etc. They held their first practice Saturday and will practice once a day for two hours a day until Wednesday.

“The first couple of practices were good,” Gruden said. “We played a lot, just getting up and down and scrimmaging.”

That was important because some of the players, such as Mikesell, hadn’t played anything more than 1-on-1 since March.

“Playing competitive basketball against good athletes was good for him,” Gruden said. “They were all tired the first day. They’re slowly getting their wind back.”

3. Scouting report: Big X beat D2 79-74 in the first game of the tournament Saturday to advance to the matchup with Red Scare.

The Big X roster includes several former Big Ten stars. Nick Ward, who scored 1,359 points in three seasons at Michigan State, led Big X with 18 points in the first game. Javon Bess, who played two seasons at Michigan State and two at Saint Louis, scored 11. Trevon Hughes, a 1,339-point scorer at Wisconsin, scored nine.

The team also has two former Buckeyes: C.J. Jackson and Andrew Dakich.

4. Second chance: For Mikesell and Trey Landers, in a way, this is the tournament they didn't get in March. They started for a Dayton team that made history by winning 29 games, including its final 20, only to have the postseason cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic. Now they will team up again four months after their final game on March 7 at UD Arena.

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Landers and Mikesell’s college careers overlapped with two other Red Scare members: Kyle Davis and Darrell Davis. They’ll play with Devin Oliver and Jalen Robinson for the first time.

“I’m just blessed to be able to play with the older guys who paved the way for me,” Landers said. “It’s been really fun being around those guys and catching up.”

5. Tournament atmosphere: With strict quarantine rules in place, only 55 people are allowed in Nationwide Arena during the games. That number includes the players. Each team can have as many as 13 people on the bench.

Fans watching on ESPN won’t see the stands. they’re blocked off by large banners on every side. One banner features a photo of Oliver, the 2014 UD graduate who played with the Red Scare last season at Capital University and returns this season.

“The banner’s awesome,” Oliver said. “I’m hoping I can get my hands on it. I may have to fake my retirement from TBT to get it, and then I’ll come back.”

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