TBT founder: ‘Heartbreaking to not be able to play in Dayton’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Combined ShapeCaption
Damon Goodwin, Devin Oliver, Kyle Davis and Vee Sanford speak after beating Mid-American Unity.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Joey Gruden says Columbus second-best destination for UD alums

Joey Gruden was on the bench when the Dayton Flyers beat Providence in the NCAA tournament at Nationwide Arena five years ago. He’ll return to that arena in July with a number of former Flyers seeking the $1 million prize in The Basketball Tournament.

» LOOKING BACK: Red Scare advances in dramatic fashion

Event organizers announced new dates (July 4-14) and a new location Thursday. While it won't be held at UD Arena, the former Dayton walk-on Gruden said Columbus was the second-best choice for the UD alumni team, the Red Scare.

“They were talking about Florida or West Virginia or Wichita,” Gruden said, “and I was like, ‘Oh God, if that happens, we’re going to have a tough time and we’re going to have to raise a lot of money to get down there.’ I’m excited about Columbus. It’s pretty close to everyone. We’ve just got to get everyone there safely and in one piece. Hopefully, next year it can come back to Dayton.”

The Basketball Tournament announced in February it would hold its championship week — the final three rounds or seven games in all — at UD Arena. The coronavirus pandemic forced event organizers to decide to hold the entire tournament at one location in a 10-day period.

It will be a quarantined event with no fans in the stands, though all the games will be televised by ESPN’s networks. Teams and staff will arrive five days before the tournament begins and undergo multiple rounds of COVID-19 testing. One positive test would force a team to withdraw from the tournament.

“Health and safety has been driving every decision we’ve made since COVID-19 became an issue,” said TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar in a statement. “Our assessment came down to what location allowed us the safest environment in which to pull off our quarantined environment and what location was the most central for our teams. In Columbus, we have an arena, hotel and practice courts all within a three-block radius. It’s heartbreaking not to be able to play in Dayton this year, especially since we were on pace to shatter our championship game attendance records. Hopefully Dayton fans will embrace us in 2021.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Combined ShapeCaption
Highlights: Red Scare loses in third round of The Basketball Tournament

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Scott DeBolt, senior associate athletics director and executive director of UD Arena, said Dayton looks forward to hosting the finals of the TBT next year.

“The change in the tournament’s date and format,” DeBolt said, “along with quarantine and testing protocols, made it more practical for the TBT to hold this year’s event in a public facility rather than on a college campus in 2020.”

» WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Flyers add recruit from France

The Red Scare, managed by Gruden and fellow former walk-on Jeremiah Bonsu, includes one player from the Brian Gregory era: Rob Lowery. It has one player who played for Gregory and Archie Miller: Devin Oliver. It has three Flyers who played their entire college careers for Miller: Dyshawn Pierre, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis. Three Red Scare members started their careers with Miller and finished with Anthony Grant: Darrell Davis, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers.

Two members of the team played for other college programs: Louisville guard Ryan McMahon and Virginia Commonwealth forward Justin Tillman.

Gruden, who’s looking for his next job in the coaching profession after spending two seasons as a graduate assistant on Chris Mack’s staff at Louisville, saw McMahon up close the last two seasons. He also witnessed Tillman’s dominance against Dayton.

Tillman was planning to play for another team, Gruden said, but that team likely wasn’t going to be picked for the smaller field.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Combined ShapeCaption
Devin Oliver follows up miss by Kyle Davis to deliver 80-78 victory in The Basketball Tournament.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“I got in contact with his agent,” Gruden said, “and he was pumped and really excited to get on a team that has a chance to win it all. He’s familiar with Darrell Davis. I guess they grew up together in Detroit.”

» UD BASEBALL: Two Flyers back in action

There will be 24 teams. More than 120 teams applied. The bracket will be unveiled Tuesday.

Bonsu credited Gruden for doing most of the work in putting the roster together. Bonsu won't be able to attend the games because he's busy with his job at Arkansas, where he's entering his second season as a grad assistant on Eric Musselman's staff.

However, Bonsu said there’s still time for he and Gruden to add the roster. He put the pressure on former UD point guard Scoochie Smith, who just signed to play in Serbia.

“I was on Scooch kind of the whole time,” Bonsu said. “It’s not too late.”

Last year, Pierre and Josh Cunningham withdrew from the team days before the tournament, and Bonsu knows there’s still a possibility of players leaving the roster. That’s why they kept adding to the roster in recent weeks.

“We’re at 10 guys right now,” Bonsu said. “If we lose two, we’ll be at eight, which is kind of the perfect playing number anyway.”

Gruden expects one player fron the current group to not play but didn’t want to name him because the player could still change his mind. He also said he’s talking to someone about coaching.

“It’s kind of a surprise,” Gruden said. “Hopefully, it works out. I’m not sure if it’s going to. I’ve got a couple people I’m going to reach out to. It’s hard for a lot of these adults because of the whole quarantine bubble. You’ve got to be in a hotel for 10 days. If they have families and stuff, it’s tough for them to get away for that long. If worse comes to worse, I’m going to coach, and we’ve got experienced guys like Rob Lowery and Devin Oliver. They’ve been through everything. We’ll kind of just do it by committee, and I’ll deal with the minor details.”

» MORE ON RED SCARE: How the team came together in 2019

Even with the quarantine restrictions and the COVID-19 testing players will undergo, Bonsu and Gruden didn’t have to work hard to convince the players on the roster to play. The Red Scare debuted last season and won two games before losing to a group of Ohio State alums, Carmen’s Crew, in the third round at Capital University in Columbus.

Four players from that roster — Oliver, Pollard, Kyle Davis and Darrell Davis — return this year.

“The guys are excited to play,” Bonsu said. “They want to play. Last year, we kind of made noise, and that kind of piqued everybody’s interest. . We can win. We’re a confident bunch.”

About the Author