TBT Power Rankings 5.2.17

 

By: Josh Brown | @josh_brown31


A look at some of the non-college alumni teams seeking entry into TBT 2017.

Since two weeks ago we looked at some of the best college alumni teams seeking entry into #TBT2017, it's only fair this week that we look at the rest of the field. While these teams may not be bound together by the same school colors or fight song, there is plenty of chemistry to be found between the teams on this list. Whether it be former overseas teammates, childhood friends or D-League champions, these 10 teams won't have a tough time meshing together should they gain entry into TBT 2017. So without further ado, sit back and relax as we look at just some of the non-college alumni teams looking to play for $2 million. And as always, please remember this is just one guy's opinion.

1. Armored Athlete

It should be absolutely frightening to opponents that Armored Athlete only has eight players on the roster right now. It's just hard to imagine them getting even more talent than they already have. How does a trio of 2017 D-League champions sound for starters? University of Indiana graudates Will Sheehey and Christian Watford, as well as Oregon alum E.J. Singler cut down the nets for Raptors 905 on Thursday night. But that's just the beginning. We've all seen what Jordan Hulls is capable of. The 2009 Indiana Mr. Basketball honoree has already won a Kosovo Superleague title and Balkan League championship in his four-year overseas journey, and is one of the best pure shooters in all of TBT. Malcolm Miller parlayed a great Holy Cross career, in which he netted 1,013 career points, 532 rebounds, 164 assists, 143 blocked shots and 93 steals, and turned it into an opporunity with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League last season. This year, he's playing for ALBA in Germany's top league. Miller's former partner in crime at Holy Cross, David Dudzinski, is averaging nearly 14 points and 7 rebounds per game in Romania. Ironman Garrett Sim played in 136 consecutive games while at Oregon from 2008-2012. And how could we forget about Julian Gamble? One of the best shot blockers in University of Miami history (132 in his career), the 6-foot-9 forward led his Hurricanes to one of their best seasons in 2013. Alongside Ants Alumni point guard Trey McKinney-Jones, Miami went wire-to-wire as the best team in the ACC, winning the conference regular season and tournament titles. 

 

2. Ants Alumni 

Armored Athlete versus Ants Alumni is the rivalry we've all been waiting for. And based on their Twitter interactions this week, it seems like the two are chomping at the bit to get at each other. It only makes sense, both squad's are about as even as it gets talent wise. Add on top of that a 76-72 win for the Ants Alumni over Armored Athlete in the 2015 Midwest Regional Championship Game, and there is certainly no love lost on either side of the divide. To even further throw fuel on the fire, Indiana graduate Roderick "Hot Rod" Wilmont will coach the Ants Alumni this summer. That means if Armored Athlete and Ants Alumni meet somewhere down the road, it will be an Indiana coach facing off against a team with three former Hoosiers of their own. Wilmont played on the 2015 Ants Alumni squad that made the TBT semifinals, and most recently has plied his coaching trade with the CBA's Fort Wayne Flight and Lakewood Park Christian High School. Both teams won championships under Wilmont. Now, he'll look to coach a group of former Mad Ants to $2 million. In addition to a bunch of familiar faces, the Ants Alumni also have a couple new additions in Stephan Hicks, Travis Leslie, Jordan Loyd and Adam Woodbury. Aside from Hicks, who just completed his second year with the Mad Ants, the three other additions all joined the team for the first time during the 2016-2017 D-League season. Leslie is a guy you are going to want to especially make sure you pay attention to. After three years at the University of Georgia, the 6-foot-4 guard was drafted 47th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. He has since been named a D-League All-Star Game MVP in 2013, Baltic League MVP and Finals MVP in 2014 and two-time Lithuanian League All-Star and Slam Dunk Contest Champion in 2014 and 2015. Put simply, the guy can ball.

 

3. Team Challenge ALS

Okay, before we get too wrapped up in the Armored Athlete and Ants Alumni rivalry, let's not forget about Darren Collison and Team Challenge ALS. While players like Dee Bost and Jerry Smith deservedly get a lot of attention, 6-foot-7 forward Ivan Aska also enters TBT 2017 with as impressive a resume as they come. Aska played his college ball at Murray State from 2008-2012, winning OVC Freshman of the Year and Second-team All-OVC honors in his senior season. But it is on the international stage with the U.S. Virgin Islands national team where Aska has made his most profound impact.  Since 2011 he has won two Caribbean Basketball Confederation titles, and participated in the 2012 and 2016 Men's Central American and Caribbean Basketball Championship. His professional career has taken him all around the world, having found homes in Belgium, Greece, Puerto Rico, Israel and South Korea. Another under the radar superstar is Marvelle Harris. A 2016 graduate of Fresno State, Harris is the program's all-time leading scorer, and was named Mountain West Player of the Year and Mountain West Tournament MVP in 2016. After playing with the New York Knicks Summer League squad, Harris signed with the Illawarra Hawks in New South Wales, Australia. As you might imagine, Harris had a spectacular season, averaging 10.8 points per game in his first professional season. 

 

4. Brothers Dat Ball

When you look at this Brothers Dat Ball roster, it's impossible to say anything other than "wow". The talent is simply that impressive. While players like Yancy Gates, Travis Hyman, Daishon Knight and Ibrahima Thomas are all returnees from the 2016 edition of the squad, the Josh Selby led team has added a host of reinforcements to try and storm through the Northeast Region. Maybe most impressive is Brandon Bowman, who played for LAUNFD the past two summers. It's impossible to run down all of the 6-foot-9 forward's accolades. In short, he's a champion. Bowman has played 12 consecutive seasons overseas, winning titles in New Zealand in 2014 and Cyprus in 2016. Former Depaul guard Brandon Young is another big addition to the team. The Baltimore native is the only player in program history to record 1,200 points, 400 assists and 100 three-point shots in a career. Young is such a prolific scorer, that throughout his 126 career collegiate games, he scored at least 10 points in 102 of them. That's good for 81 percent. Young most recently won a Swiss Cup title with Monthey this past season. Finally, look for Kenny Boynton to give this Brothers Dat Ball team even more depth at the guard position. Since his days at Florida (2009-2013) where the McDonald's All American was named to the SEC All-Rookie Team and First-team All-SEC team in 2012, Boynton has played with some of the top teams in Israel, France, Turkey and Russia.

 

5. Team 23

Team 23 is the only team on this list that TBT fans 100 percent know they will see compete this summer. As a result of making the 2015 TBT Championship Game, Davin White and company have been extended an automatic bid into the West Region. We've seen a lot of changes from Team 23 over the past two years, and that trend continues for TBT 2017. In fact, the only players remaining (as of now) from the 2015 team is White, Zach Andrews, Andrew Kelly and Larry Owens. But that's certainly not a bad thing. In fact, Team 23 seems poised to bring their deepest and most talented group yet to TBT 2017. While they're known more for their hockey program, Dermaine Crockrell is one of the most memorable players to ever come out of Bemidji State. After playing his first two years at a community college, the Mesa, Arizona native scored 665 career points (13.6 ppg) between 2011-2013. In his senior season, Crockrell scored at least 10 points in all but two games. Gabe Freeman is another guy to keep your eyes on. Despite playing just one year of college ball at Mesa Community College, Freeman has put together a 10-year overseas career that has seen him win championships in Canada and the Philippines. Freeman has also been named the CBA Defensive Player of the Year (2009), NBL Canada Most Valuable Player (2012) and two-time Philippine Basketball Association Import Player of the Year (2009, 2010). 

 

6. The Stickmen

As they say, patience is a virtue. While The Stickmen are far from a complete team just yet, their opening act sure looks encouraging. The name that basketball fans will know best is Donald Sloan. The 6-foot-3 guard out of Texas A&M has played for the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets in his 218 career NBA games. Sloan played in a career-high 61 games for the Nets in the 2015-2016 season, averaging 7 points and 4.4 assists per game. He spent this season in China with the Guangdong Southern Tigers, where he put on a clinic, averaging 23.6 points and 5.3 assists per game. Joining him will be TBT veterans Justin Dentmon, Alex Kirk, as well as Shane Lawal, who won the 2015 championship with Overseas Elite. Between Dentmon and Lawal, the two have combined to win eight championships in the D-League and overseas. That's not a mistake. Eight championships. Dentmon has racked up titles in China, the D-League and Lithuania, while also receiving honors such as D-League MVP in 2012 and Lithuanian League All-Star Game MVP in 2014. Lawal has found tremendous success in Italy, winning three titles there and another two in Kazakhstan. Add in Tennessee product Chris Lofton to the mix, and all of a sudden The Stickmen have as accomplished a five players as you are going to find anywhere in the world. In addition to winning a French Cup title (and winning MVP honors) in 2016, Lofton was the SEC Player of the Year in 2007 and a three-time First-team All-SEC honoree while with the Volunteers. Oh yeah, and Michael Rapaport is on the team.

 

7. Kentucky Kings

This Kentucky Kings team has the feel of a squad who could shock the world in TBT 2017. Do people remember how good a player Erving Walker was at Florida? The undersized 5-foot-8 guard dished out 547 assists in his collegiate career, more than any other Gator in program history. And how about his 1,777 points? That's good for fourth most. And that's just the beginning. The team made a huge splash in signing Jeremy Evans, who won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as a member of the Utah Jazz in 2012. But it's not just his ability to dunk the ball that makes him a special player. Evans played six NBA seasons with the Jazz and Dallas Mavericks before heading out to Russia this season. The 6-foot-9 forward is an immensely efficient shooter, knocking down nearly 57 percent of the shots he took in the NBA. From there, the list goes on and on. Osiris Eldridge was not only one of the best players in Illinois State history, but he has TBT experience with the Illinois Hoopville Warriors. Steffphon Pettigrew was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball in 2007. Pair all of that with overseas champions A.J. Slaughter and Tyrone Brazelton among others, and I certainly would not want to be the team who has to try and matchup with this squad.

 

8. Jackson TN Underdawgs

As I've said before, if TBT 2017 started today the Jackson TN Underdawgs would enter the tournament as the most improved team from last year. And remember, this is a squad who beat the top-seeded Bluegrass Boys and were a shot away from beating eventual Midwest Regional Champions Always A Brave. While we've talked about what newcomers Kendall Anthony, Willie Kemp, Tarius Johnson and Jarvis Varnado bring to the team, let's not forget about the core of returnees who led the team to it's improbable run last summer. It begins with floor general Anthony Sampson. Despite standing just 5-foot-4, the point guard out of Freed-Hardeman University is not only a dynamic offensive player who can sneak his way into the lane, but also a rabid defensive menace with quick hands and active feet. Forward Antwan Long channeled his inner Liberty Tech and Lambuth University days, providing a stabalizing force at the forward position despite standing just six-feet tall. Add in childhood friends Chris Cole, Devon Jones, Joshua Sain, Michael Ward and Jeremy Weddle, and the 2017 edition of the team may not be as big an underdog this summer as you might think.

 

9. DC On Point

It would be a grave mistake to overlook this DC On Point team. There's simply too much talent there. A name that college basketball fans will remember is Markel Starks. The Georgetown product went from averaging 1.5 points per game in his freshman season to 17.3 points by the time he graduated in 2014. His efforts landed him First-team All-Big East honors in his senior season. Starks has since played in Italy, Australia and most recently Greece, where he averaged 13.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for Koroivos this season. Former Clemson standout Sharrod Ford is another guy to watch this summer. In his junior and senior seasons, Ford led the Tigers in both scoring and rebounding. The last player to lead Clemson in both statistics for consecutive seasons? That would be four-time NBA champion Horace Grant. The 6-foot-9 forward has since won three championships in Germany. With a supporting cast including guys like former University of Pittsburgh forward Mark McCarroll and Hungarian national team guard Jermaine Thomas, America's capital is going to be well-represented this summer. 

 

10. Atlanta Dirty South

Although they still have some roster spots to fill in the coming weeks, Atlanta Dirty South already has a trio capable of carrying them all the way to Baltimore. It begins with Jamario Moon, who played in TBT 2015 with Trained To Go. The former Harlem Globetrotter played in 286 career NBA games with the Raptors, Heat, Cavaliers, Clippers and Hornets, averaging a career 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. While Moon's trademark dunking skills earn most of the attention, his defensive prowess is quite possibly the best feature of his game. In fact, the 36-year old broke a Raptors record in 2007 when he blocked at least one shot in 12 consecutive games. The second member of this three-headed monster is Langston Nolley. That name should sound familiar. Nolley became a TBT legend in 2015 when he led Dirty South to the Super 17 the same weekend that he welcomed a baby girl into the world. Although the team lost in the quarterfinals to Overseas Elite, Nolley averaged an insane 25 points per game. Lastly, former Michigan Wolverine Brenton Petway is another player who should put on a clinic for TBT fans this summer. Nicknamed "Air Georgia" because of his insane hops, Petway, another former Harlem Globetrotter, won the 2008 D-League and 2013 Greek League Slam Dunk Championships. The 6-foot-8 forward has also won a Greek League title and FIBA Intercontinental Cup championship with Greece in 2013.