Application deadline looms for TBT hopefuls


By: Peyton Wesner | @pcwesner


Mike Illiano excessively checks his phone this time of year.

The general manager of Team 23 will regularly unlock his phone and open the clock app. He then scrolls through numerous international cities, all of which show the local time of committed and prospective players. In this way, Illiano tries to accommodate the hustle and bustle of his players’ professional schedule.

"'What time is it over there now? ‘Oh, it’s 5:30 a.m. I don’t want to message him,'” said Illiano. “Sometimes I have to send these messages out at midnight.”


Just over a week remains until TBT teams must submit their roster for the 2019 tournament. June 1 at 12 p.m. EST marks the application deadline — a cutoff that raises the price of a roster spot to $1,000 per player following the date. 

As teams inch closer to the start of regional play, GMs continue to search for missing pieces and promising players.

“Bigs and forwards is going to be the key," said Sideline Cancer GM Billy Clapper. "We need two wings and another forward. You have to have a deep roster.”


The three-month application period starts in March. During that time, GMs will recruit players — most of whom play overseas. Thus, players are in the midst of their regular season when initially contacted.

”You are dealing with guys who are on the tail end of long seasons,” said Illiano. “I got one guy who played 35 games in Spain, and he must have played in another 30 games in the Champions League. So, you are looking at about 60 games.

“I think that it takes a mental toll on them and they start to procrastinate a little when it comes to committing.”

Illiano is no stranger to TBT. Team 23 enters its fifth summer and has won at least two tournament games twice, including in 2015 when its inaugural run ended in the championship game. That success aside, Illiano says it is tougher and tougher to build a competitive roster, partly because of the budding emergence of alumni teams.

“One thing that has made it harder is the sheer rise in alumni teams,” said Illiano. “Guys are going to be prone to play with their alumni before they play with a non-alumni.”

Even for alumni squads, GMs struggle to gain concrete commitments. Just ask GaelNation GM John Kiggins, who works diligently to fill the Iona College alumni roster.


“As a GM, you are always checking in on the guys every other day, making sure everything is good and making sure they are coming home on time from their season,” said Kiggins, a manager for the Iona men’s basketball team from 2012 through 2016. “Some guys use the summer as their downtime or an opportunity to get better and do training and don’t really want to focus on playing games.”

In the past, NBA Summer League partially coincided with TBT and caused some players to be unavailable. Despite no schedule conflict this year, a verbal commitment means nothing without that individual’s verification video. To be eligible, a player must submit a short clip as confirmation of his commitment.

“When I need these videos, I have to act persistent and it’s not in my nature,” said Illiano. “Because they are constantly in conditioning mode and their games are taxing, even the simplest task becomes a challenge.”

Teams also devote time and effort in building a fan base and engaging potential fans on social media. For the first time, fan support can add a player to any roster. If a team accrues 1,000 registered supporters, an invaluable tenth roster spot is added. 

“We’re trying to get this tenth player,” said Clapper. “Every year we have had someone not show up and something happen at the last second."


“There is a good chance that somebody on my team will either get hurt or something will come up.”

The tenth roster spot can be added, at the latest, 72 hours before a team’s first game. However, expanded rosters do not eliminate travel concerns. Prior to the quarterfinals in Chicago, Ill., all teams are responsible for booking air travel and lodging. This facet affects each GM’s choice of a regional location.

“You are looking around and saying, ‘Alright, well, what is the best fit travel-wise?’” said Kiggins. “Can everyone find a way? And, how can we do this the cheapest way possible? That is another tough situation that all GMs are faced with.”

But, even when the bracket is released on June 11, the job of a GM is never done.

“The minute we get selected, we are going to start booking the flights,” said Illiano. “That is going to be the logistical problem.”