The Basketball Tournament: Red Scare hopes to make most of home-court advantage

Dayton alumni team plays at 3 p.m. Sunday

Former Dayton Flyers Jordan Sibert and Vee Sanford, two of the key players on the Elite Eight team in 2014, hadn’t crossed paths since that season until this week in Dayton.

Sanford, Devin Oliver and Dyshawn Pierre played together in The Basketball Tournament in 2017 for a team called the Broad Street Brawlers. A year later, Sibert joined the team, but Sanford wasn’t able to play.

Sanford played for the first Red Scare team in 2019, but Sibert didn’t join the roster until last year when Sanford didn’t play. Finally, at 3 p.m. Sunday, they will share the court together in the first round of The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena.

“I gave Vee my legendary hug after we beat Ohio State,” Sibert said. “I still love Vee for that. That was big for me.”

Sanford’s bank shot in the final seconds lifted to Dayton to a first-round victory in the NCAA tournament eight years ago against Sibert’s former team. That’s why Sanford holds a special place in Sibert’s heart.

Now they can create more memories together with another member of that 2014 team, Scoochie Smith, as well as Darrell Davis, who played with Smith and Sibert on the 2015 team that won two NCAA tournament games. The roster also includes former Flyers Darrell Davis, Josh Cunningham, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers and three players from other programs: Trevor Thompson and C.J. Walker (Ohio State); and Joe Thomasson (Wright State).

Even if the three non-Flyers play big roles, the Red Scare expects to have an advantage playing on a court so familiar to so many of the players.

“Being back here gives us everything we need,” Sibert said.

The Red Scare is the No. 3 seed in the eight-team Dayton region. Its first-round opponent is the No. 6 seed CitiTeam.

The action starts with No. 1 seed The Money Team playing No. 8 Athletics Miami at 1 p.m. The evening games are: No. 4 Men of Mackey vs. No. 5 Mid American Unity at 7 p.m.; and No. 2 Golden Eagles vs. No. 7 Ohio 1804 at 9 p.m.

The Basketball Tournament started last weekend at some regional sites. Four teams have already clinched spots in the quarterfinals in Dayton: Americana For Austism, which won the regional held at Rucker Park in New York City; Florida TNT, which beat Xavier’s alumni team at the Cintas Center on Thursday night; Team Heartfire, the New Mexico Region champ; and Gutter Cat Gang, the Omaha, Neb., champion.

The Red Scare started practicing Tuesday and held a public practice at UD Arena on Saturday.

“We’re putting our concepts together,” said former Dayton walk-on Jeremiah Bonsu, who’s assisting Joey Gruden in coaching the team. “We’re communicating better than we probably did last year. Everyone’s saying the right things. Now we just have to do the right things.”

Gruden and Bonsu will lean on the experience of coaching in previous TBTs. They helped former Flyer Damon Goodwin coach the team in 2019. In 2020, Gruden coached the team alone. Bonsu returned to help Gruden in 2021.

“The competition gets crazier and crazier each year,” Gruden said. “It’s just so hard to win. You’ve just got to be ready. We’re at a huge advantage that we get to come together to practice. Some teams coming in Friday or Saturday don’t get a lot of time.”

One of the unique features of the TBT is the Elam Ending. With under four minutes go, eight points are added to the leading team’s score, and that becomes the target score. The first team to reach it wins.

“The Elam Ending is different,” Gruden said. “That’s the hardest part. The game is really short, it feels like, with that four minutes cut off.”

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