JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – If TBT, The Basketball Tournament, is able to take place this summer, the Southern Smokies roster and coaching staff will be littered with ETSU basketball alumni.
The “front office” is represented by either East Tennessee State graduates or people that have served on the Buccaneers men’s basketball coaching staff. Former player Dillon Reppart is the general manager with Jermaine Long and Chris Fobres as assistant coaches and Bryan Forbes leading the charge as head coach.
This idea of getting a team together has been in the making for quite some time.
“We’re sitting there watching, kind of looking at each other like “Why do we not have a team together?” I don’t think they realized that I was really going to put it together until a few months ago when I reached out them,” Reppart said.
The Basketball Tournament, or TBT, was founded in 2014 and is an open-application, single-elimination tournament played each summer in the United States, currently featuring 64 teams and offering $2 million in winner-take-all prize money.
The tournament has featured former pros like Hakim Warrick, Jason Williams, Dahntay Jones, Mike Bibby, Royal Ivey, Matt Bonner, and Brian Scalabrine. The tournament really picked up steam nationally last year with Chris Paul and DeMarcus Cousins both entering teams, along with Bobby Portis and Andre Drummond coaching teams.
“The momentum is huge with the TBT, so I thought, why not. Why not make a team, why not be me to get the team going,” Reppart said.
As the ETSU graduate started putting the pieces together for this team, he didn’t have to look far with four of the current eight players on the roster having played in a Buccaneers uniform. Guards Jalan McCloud, T.J. Cromer and Devontavius Payne and forward Isaac Banks are part of the squad.
“Being apart of ETSU and that program, it’s only four years, but the bond you make,” Reppart said. “The friendships you make is going to last a lifetime whether that’s with the coaches or the players.”
A big reason why all these players came to play in Johnson City was East Tennessee head coach Steve Forbes, who knows relationships off the court are just as important as the ones on the floor.
“When I recruit them, I always tell them I want it to be a lifelong relationship not something that ends when they’re gone from here and a lot of times that’s a two-way street,” Forbes said.
The inner circle will have to grow as Chattanooga forward Justin Tuoyo and guard Greg Pryor, Furman guard Stephen Croone and Western Carolina forward Carlos Dotson are all part of the Smokies roster. It’s been a hard process for Reppart, who’s had to turn away talent for this roster given there’s only ten possible spots on the team.
“The problem know is you’ve got so many good players from around the league that want to be a part of this and it’s getting tough having to turn away some of those guys,” Reppart said. “Just because it’s a no right now that doesn’t mean it’s a no forever.”
One thing Reppart and the rest of the tournament can’t control is when the Coronavirus outbreak will settle down. The tournament has eight regionals and the Smokies compete in the West Virginia regional, which takes place on July 23 at the Charleston Coliseum with the finals on August 6-11 in Dayton. Reppart doesn’t see the tournament cancelling the event.
“They’re going to do everything in their power to make sure this thing is still alive. Hopefully everything flies over by then, but if not I see them postpone it before they cancel.”