For Eberlein Drive, going worst to (almost) first was all about trusting the process

 

By: Zach Dupont | @ZachDupont2


In 2014, Eberlein Drive was called the "lost cause" of TBT. Four years later they were in the Championship.

Earlier this spring, Matt Mitchell was watching his former high school play in the Indiana state championship game.

Even though Mitchell’s old school came away with a dominating victory, his attention immediately shifted to the losing team.

 “I was looking over at the losing team, and they were crying, and they were sad,” said Mitchell. “I felt bad for those guys, but I can totally relate because that was me six to eight months ago.”

For the last four years, Mitchell has served as GM of Eberlein Drive. The team made a Cinderella run to the Championship Game last summer - eventually falling to four-time champs Overseas Elite.

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“I’ve been in some big games as a player,” said Mitchell, a former guard at Olivet Nazarene University. “But, never have I ever been in a situation where I missed out on two million dollars.”

While Eberlein’s 70-58 loss to Overseas Elite in the Championship Game was a tough pill to swallow, when you put it in perspective, the team’s run is one of the best stories in TBT history.

Eberlein Drive is one of the few active teams remaining that played in the inaugural tournament in 2014. Founder Jacob Hirschmann named the team after the small cul-de-sac he grew up on in suburban Detroit.

“I originally signed up as a fan,” said Hirschmann, “but after a couple of days, I realized that anyone could sign up for [TBT] and that me and my buddies could play.”

 

“We were like, ok we got us three, but let’s try and get some actual college and pro players and try to actually win some games... Then the morning of [the first game], basically everyone bailed except two guys.”

This left Hirschmann with a six-man team, four of whom never played competitively past high school. After Hischmann got dunked on by Smush Parker (Big Apple Basketball) and was forced to leave the game with an elbow injury, they were down to just five.

As you have probably figured out by now Eberlein’s first foray into TBT did not last long. They ended up losing 112-71, a defeat that would have been much worse had it not been for Philadelphia University alum Nicholas Christian (34 points, 14 rebounds).

“After the tournament, I realized I couldn’t [run the team] on my own,” said Hirschman. “That’s when I reached out to Matt [Mitchell] via DM on Twitter, I saw what he did with the Olivet Nazarene Alumni, and that was legitimately the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Since Mitchell came aboard, Eberlein Drive has gone from having “two real players and a bunch of scrubs,” as Hirschman put it, to having former NBA players such as Von Wafer, Renaldo BalkmanDonald Sloan, Lou Amundson, and James Michael McAdoo. With that being said, the results did not come immediately. Prior to last summer's run to the Championship Game, the team had not made it past the Second Round.  

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While Mitchell’s recruitment and GM skills are a crucial part of building a winning team, both Mitchell and Hirschman agree that building team chemistry over the years has been vital to their success.

“Choosing players is definitely a team approach,” said Mitchell. “We aren’t just sitting here as a front office like ‘we should go after this guy because he’s got great highlight tapes,’ we’re taking guys that we are talking to and presenting them to the returning players to get their opinion.”

“A lot of teams fall apart with chemistry,” added Hirschman. “If you don’t have good chemistry guys will fight over minutes, they’ll get upset if they’re not playing, and that can really mess things up.”

While TBT is best known for its incredible college alumni teams, Eberlein Drive takes pride in the fact that the team was started by a bunch of friends who just wanted to ball.

“When TBT first started it was really about how this was a tournament for literally anybody,” said Hirschmann, “and that’s what allowed my friends and I to play. At its core, Eberlein Drive is what TBT was made for.”