Out of the Shadows; D2 is ready to play against top talent

 

By: Khristal Depina


D2 is out to prove the doubters wrong in TBT 2019

You’ve certainly heard the phrase "Never judge a book by its cover," and D2 is here to prove just that. With TBT 2019 just days away, this team, consisting solely of NCAA Division 2 basketball players, is ready to shed off the perception that they're second best. The team is gearing up to compete against some of the most experienced players from around the world in hopes to prove that they belong.

“Coming out of high school, I was always told that Division 2 wasn’t as good as Division 1," said D2 forward Shaun Willett. "If you go Division 2 then you’ll have no chances of going to play professional basketball, your chances are slim to none. But, in reality, a lot of high-level Division 2 [players] will beat a lot of major Division 1 [players]." 

 

The perception around Division 2 players is that they are slower, smaller, and play against easier teams, says Todd Withers, a forward for D2 who still experiences these misconceptions at the professional level.

Despite being a standout at a handful of tryouts, Withers recalls countless times he went unnoticed due to not having a Division 1 institution attached to his name.

"You might feel like you work harder than the other guy, but in the eyes of the people who scout, they see something totally different," said Withers. "I see a guy who came from Kansas who was a top-tier Division 1 player, who averaged maybe 215 points, versus a guy who went to Queens University who averaged 215 points. Who would you take just off of the name of the school?"

 

Similar to Withers, this scenario hits home for Willett, who continues to be overlooked at tryouts despite the fact that he had a legendary career at Queens University. 

“Even the fact that I was an All-American, second-leading scorer in my conference, and [had] 27 double-doubles; the most in the NCAA at all levels, guys [who] were average or above-average D1 players are still getting chosen to play over me in summer leagues and stuff like that,” said Willett. 

Looking back, Willett believes that the division he played for in college should not change the way he's viewed as a pro.

 

“We can compete with any level. It’s all about the heart of the player," said Willett. "We all could of went to some mid-major, high major school but things happen that we had to settle for Division 2.”

“I just think it’s a large misconception that high-level Division 2 players aren’t as good as Division 1 players,” added Omar Wattad, an assistant coach for D2. “People just don’t know that there’s a lot of talent. So, it’s a chance for us to show everybody.” 

With the odds against them, they’ll have no room for error if they want to win the Lexington Regional. Knowing what it takes to go up against top Division 1 talent in the tournament having played for the PrimeTime Players last summer, Mike Davis says that it all comes down to effort.

“I feel like this time with the group of guys we have we definitely can make some good numbers and perform well on a good stage,” said Davis. 

“They tie their shoes the same way I tie my shoes," added Willett. "They got to play on the same court I got to play on, and they have to use the same basketball I got to use. So, we’re going to see at the end of the day what that name behind them stands for."