Former Ohio State basketball players renew chase for $2 million in TBT

Adam Jardy
Guard Aaron Craft, competing in The Basketball Tournament last July, is back with a newly named team of former Buckeyes: Carmen's Crew. [Adam Cairns]

With practice winding down, C.J. Jackson threw a pass to Jae’Sean Tate in the corner under the eye of coach Andrew Dakich. It was time for team Big X to leave the court and make way for another team of former Buckeyes, Carmen’s Crew, to use the space in preparation for Friday’s opening round of The Basketball Tournament at Capital University.

Tate, who will be playing, hit the shot. Dakich, his former teammate who will now be his coach, smiled. Then one by one, the members of Carmen’s Crew made their way to the court after last year’s foray into the tournament ended short of the semifinal round and led into an offseason of change.

No longer known as “Scarlet and Gray” for legal reasons, Carmen’s Crew has a new look, some new faces and — for this weekend, anyway — new leadership. Coach Scoonie Penn will be out of town, leaving Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale to handle coaching responsibilities.

“I’m just comfortable with these guys, honestly,” Sullinger said. “Playing with these guys and seeing the floor from the sideline is totally different. It won’t be really hard to know who to throw in, what combinations to work with. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Sullinger, who anchored last year’s team, said he was going to miss playing in this year’s event because he’s in a few weddings that conflicted with the games. Should Carmen’s Crew play Saturday, he won’t be there and Lauderdale will coach in his place. Should Big X also win its opening game Friday, the teams will face each other at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Sullinger and Lauderdale will share responsibilities for a roster that currently includes six former Buckeyes: William Buford, Aaron Craft, Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Evan Ravenel and LaQuinton Ross. Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr., who were initially included on the roster, were not at practice and are not expected to take part.

Last year, the team took a 22-point loss in the quarterfinals. In 2017, it reached the national semifinals of the winner-take-all $2 million tournament.

This year’s team will have to come together quickly to make a similar run.

“The goals are always to win, but also getting together with my guys is something that’s beyond basketball,” Lighty said. “These are the lifetime memories that we build, no matter what happens. It’s great for us to be back here for Buckeye Nation, to see what guys have been doing and relive the past a little bit.”


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast: