Ohio State fans looking for a team to cheer in The Basketball Tournament this summer might have plenty of options.
As it stands, TBT is slated to announce a 64-team field on June 22 that will include the reigning champions, Carmen’s Crew. It could also again include Big X, a team led by former player Andrew Dakich, as well as newcomers Great Lakes Elite.
Rosters for the $2 million, winner-take-all tournament founded in 2014 still are being finalized, and as always are contingent on other opportunities that could arise during the summer months. But while the thought of Ohio State alumni playing against each other might be jarring, Dakich said he doesn’t see it that way — and neither do other former Buckeyes.
"Everyone’s at different points in their careers, professionally," Dakich said. "Whatever team or roster is more enticing to them, they’re going to go. There’s no hard feelings. Everyone is playing because they love the game of basketball."
Carmen’s Crew, coached by Jared Sullinger alongside general manager Evan Turner and Leon Rodgers, a Columbus native who played at Northern Illinois, is planning to feature former OSU players William Buford, Aaron Craft, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty, Evan Ravenel and some other players not from Ohio State.
Last season, they defeated Big X, which featured Dakich’s debut on the sidelines, in a second-round game. This summer, Dakich plans to return to the court for Big X, two years after his playing career ended.
"Truthfully, due to this whole coronavirus thing, I probably have taken my health and workouts and daily regimen more serious than I ever have," Dakich said. "A lot of me has really, really missed playing. And I’m not saying I’m good enough to play anywhere, but this is an opportunity to actually play and see how I stand."
Whether he decides to play again or not, Dakich hopes to have three former Buckeyes on his roster: C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods and new addition Andre Wesson.
Dakich played with Wesson and Jackson during his lone season with the Buckeyes, 2017-18, then was on the OSU staff the next season as a graduate assistant during Woods’ only season with the team.
Dakich also was a program assistant last season in Wesson’s shortened final year, and he’s excited about the prospect of adding the former Westerville South standout.
"I love it, because I think he’s a really solid player who had a really good career," Dakich said. "He was the most reliable player, you could argue, on Ohio State’s team for the last two years. … He’s going to have a chance to make some really good money because he’s a very versatile guy who can guard 1 through 5."
Meanwhile, Great Lakes Elite will be coached by Eric Flannery, the longtime boys basketball coach at Lakewood St. Edward. Serving as assistant coach and general manger is Jake Lorbach, a former Ohio State walk-on who is now an assistant for Flannery at St. Edward. He also spent time with USA Basketball and Cleveland State before starting to form the roster for Great Lakes Elite.
The eight-player team is set to include former Buckeyes Marc Loving and Kam Williams, the latter of whom was slated to play for Big X last summer before dropping out.
"One thing I’ve learned, you don’t need to have the most-talented players," Lorbach said. "You just need to have the best team to be able to win, so that was my main focus: not really trying to go after the big names.
"I’m trying to bring guys together who can collectively be team players and be cool with one another and develop a relationship that would extend beyond this tournament. That’s how you create something special. I learned that from coach (Thad) Matta especially, from coach Flannery and how they do things with USA Basketball."
Lorbach said Great Lakes Elite is working on sponsorships and online promotions to help gain a spot in this year’s event.
Assuming the tournament takes place, there would at least 15 former Ohio State players planning to participate.
"There’s just not enough space" for all the former Buckeyes on one roster, Dakich said. "It would be great if all Ohio State players were together, but the truth of the matter is I don’t know Marc Loving. … There’s no hard feelings. I root for him. I love Kam Williams. He’s a really good friend."
That friendship may be tested, however, if there is money on the line.
"That’s what I love about TBT so much," Lorbach said. "It’s like a big reunion of the best players from the past 10 years and they’re all trying to beat each other for a whole lot of money."