The Basketball Tournament: Red Scare starts pursuit of $1 million prize

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Red Scare holds first practice for TBT on July 19, 2021, at UD's RecPlex.

Dayton alumni team includes 10 players who tallied more than 8,000 points in college basketball

The first practice for the Red Scare on Monday featured images seen only behind the closed doors of the team’s practice facility in years past.

• Ryan Mikesell guarding Trey Landers, a fellow starter on the 29-2 team of 2019-20, on a drive to the basket.

• Jordan Sibert and Darrell Davis, whose college careers overlapped in 2014-15 with the last Dayton team to advance in the NCAA tournament, going after each other again and again in 3-on-3 drills.

• Devon Scott taking the ball against Kendall Pollard, a fellow member of the Elite Eight team seven years ago.

Fans of the Dayton Flyers know all these names well but have only seen them in action against other teams. In preparation for The Basketball Tournament, eight former Flyers as well as two former Ohio State Buckeyes — Trevor Thompson and CJ Walker — spent five days working together at the University of Dayton’s RecPlex. They traveled to Columbus on Friday and will play in the first round of the TBT at 3 p.m. Saturday at Ohio State’s Covelli Center.

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“A lot of teams have big-name guys. but they don’t want to play super hard,” said Joey Gruden, who will coach the team along with fellow former Dayton walk-on Jeremiah Bonsu, “or they have good players but they’re not organized and they don’t know what they’re doing. Just getting these practices and getting on the same page is going to be huge for us.”

This is the most practice time the Red Scare has had before playing in the TBT.

“We’ve been able to go two times a day for a whole week essentially,” Gruden said Thursday after watching the current Flyers practice at the Cronin Center. “Last year was about three days, two and a half days. We can’t really kill them, but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we went kind of hard, and Thursday and Friday. we’re taking it easy.”

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To get a chance to play at UD Arena, the site of the final three rounds of the 64-team tournament, the Red Scare will have to win three games in four days in Columbus. Here’s a breakdown of the team and its road through the TBT:

1. First opponent: The Columbus Regional starts Friday with four games. The No. 1 seed, the Ohio State alumni team Carmen’s Crew, plays No. 16 seed Mid American Unity in the final game of Day 1 at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

The Red Scare, which is seeded second in the region, plays its first game at 3 p.m. Saturday against No. 15 seed BC Vahakni City, which dropped three players from the roster on Tuesday and now has an eight-man group. The game will be televised on ESPN3.

Four members of Vahakni City played together and won a championship in Armenia this year. Guard Darious Clark, who played at Slippery Rock and Illinois State, was the MVP of the 2021 Armenian League Championship, averaging 24.3 points per game.

2. Looking ahead: If the Red Scare wins Saturday, it will play at 2 p.m. Sunday against No. 7 seed Wolf Blood (N.C. State alums) or No. 10 seed Category 5 (Miami Hurricanes alums). That game will be televised on ESPN.

Among the keys to advancing in the TBT, Bonsu said, are playing strong transition defense, playing hard and sticking together.

“The first year (in 2019), we saw that with that Ohio State team,” Bonsu said. “They were so together. We knew they were going to win (the championship) after they beat us. And last year, we learned being together you can get to a final four, and this year we’re going to do the same thing hopefully.”

3. Big prize: The winner of the TBT splits $1 million. For the Red Scare, the chance to play on their former home court at UD Arena is another big incentive.

If the Red Scare wins its first two games, it will play again at 7 p.m. Tuesday. That game will be on ESPN. The possible third-round opponents are: No. 3 seed Zip ‘Em Up (Xavier alums); No. 4 Ohio 1804 (Ohio Bobcats alums); No. 6 Blue Collar U (Buffalo Bulls alums); and No. 11 The Nerd Team (Ivy League alums).

“I’m super excited,” said Mikesell, who will play for the Red Scare for the second straight year. “I think we’ll have a big turnout in Columbus, but if we get to Dayton, that’d be amazing. I think we could definitely get close to selling that place out, and I think Flyer fans are hungry to watch some Flyer hoops again.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

4. Deeper roster: The Red Scare is 4-2 in two TBT appearances. It lost in the quarterfinals in 2019 at Capital University in Bexley when the event had 64 teams and lost in the semifinals last season in a 16-team field.

The 2019 team had several late roster defections and had a seven-man roster. Last year, the Red Scare had eight players. They have 10 players this year and made a key move Sunday by adding Walker. They needed someone who can play point guard after Kyle Davis had withdraw from the team because of personal reasons.

“I picked up Trevor at the airport, and I’m telling him about Kyle Davis being not able to play. He said he knows a couple guards. I said, ‘Do you happen to know CJ Walker?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ He called him up right there in the car, and I talked to him. It was a pretty quick deal. He was super excited to play. He’s a true point guard. He’s tough on defense. He’s a great pickup.”

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5. Successful group: The 10 players combined to score 8,532 points in Division I college basketball: Pollard (1,171); Sibert (1,030); Davis (1,008); Walker (967); Landers (946); Devin Oliver (923); Mikesell (847); Thompson (717); Brandon Spearman (667); and Scott (256).

Sibert is the only player in the group who has played in the NBA. He made his NBA debut in 2019 with the Atlanta Hawks, scoring three points in his only appearance. If the Red Scare fails to advance to the quarterfinals in Dayton, Sibert will appear at UD Arena anyway on Aug. 1 as he qualified Thursday in Columbus for the finals of the TBT’s 33-Point shooting contest, which awards $33,333 to the winner.

Sibert played in the TBT, along with former Flyers Vee Sanford, Dyshawn Pierre and Oliver, with a team called the Broad Street Brawlers in 2018 but has not played for the Red Scare.

“Big-fish hunting, that’s what we were doing,” Bonsu said. “We’ve been wanting to get him for a while.”

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Red Scare 2021 roster