The scene Tuesday at Value City Arena more closely resembled loosely organized chaos than an actual basketball practice.
Underneath one basket in the practice gym stood Greg Oden, joking with Ryan Pedon and Jon Diebler. At the far end of the court, Jared Sullinger, Andrew Dakich and C.J. Jackson passed a ball around for some warm-up shots. Nearby, Jae’Sean Tate and William Buford engaged in some spirited one-on-one play as Evan Ravenel officiated.
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All are Buckeyes, but only some of them were there on business. And once Carmen’s Crew started to get practice underway for Thursday’s resumption of The Basketball Tournament in Chicago, the focus began to change.
“It’s almost like the NCAA Tournament,” said Sullinger, who will coach the team. “Understand that at any given moment, you can lose a game. We’ve got to take every game serious. We know we played well in the Columbus region, but we have to take it to a whole other level going forward.”
After winning three games in as many days during the weekend of July 19-21 at Capital University, Carmen’s Crew will play in the quarterfinal round of the $2 million, winner-take-all tournament against Eberline Drive, last year’s runner-up, at 7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. For the team of former Buckeyes who fell in this round last year after reaching the final four two summers ago, it’s expected that the competition level will rise after three wins by double figures.
The winner of Thursday’s game will play on Saturday and potentially on Aug. 6 for the title, but Buford said he’s not letting his attention wander that far.
“I’m looking forward to Thursday right now,” he said. “I’m not going to get ahead of myself and say the weekend.”
The Carmen’s Crew roster will be mostly the same as it was for the first three games with one addition: Former Illinois guard Demetri McCamey will join the team. Sullinger said that Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas, who were both on the initial roster, will not join the team. Smith is coming off of wrist surgery, and Thomas recently got married.
The constant flux extends to the coaching staff as well, where Sullinger made his debut in place of Scoonie Penn and had to figure out a few things on the fly.
“There’s a couple things I thought I could do better as far as rotations, making adjustments,” he said. “I was half a second late in the Dayton game with making an adjustment. I think that’s the thing — sometimes you get caught in the game to the point you’re watching it as a fan. I got lost in being a fan and a coach at the same time. Those are a couple things I need to work on.”