CHICAGO in the TBT
By Gavriel M. Wilkins (Contributing Writer, SummerLeagueChi.com)
With summertime officially upon us, the competition across the Chicagoland hoops scene is beginning to heat up on the hardwood as several players, coaches, and teams from around the area look to make their mark against local neighborhood rivals and a host of other competitors across several citywide basketball leagues and other prestigious events throughout the area. One of the major tournaments scheduled to take place in the coming weeks is The Basketball Tournament (TBT), a 5-on-5, 64-team winner-take-all spectacle, where players from Chicago and beyond will look to compete against one another in the quest to advance to the championship game in New York City and play for $2 million. The road to the Big Apple for Chicago’s premiere crop of talent begins at the Midwest Regional, as two local teams (The Region, Illinois Hoopville Warriors) and a host of star-studded talent will seek to survive and advance into the Super 16 starting on Saturday, July 16th at St. Xavier University (Shannon Center, 3700 W. 103rd St.).
Below is a list of all the Chicago players set to participate at the TBT, alongside of the teams they will suit up for at the main event.
Billy Baptist (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Guard/Forward
Played in the first round of the Fightball qualifying tournament this past Spring for a chance to win $10,000 in the one-on-one basketball event held in New York City.
BallUp Million Dollar Summer Challenge Defensive Player of the Year (2015); helped lead Wright Sports to the championship game vs. One Chicago this past summer. Averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for Hoopville in last year’s TBT, as his dazzling dunks made him one of the viral sensations throughout the tournament.
2x Nike Chi-League Champion (2013 & 2015-Wright Sports)
Has played in five different countries throughout his career; also played for the Bakersfield Jam (now Northern Arizona Suns) of the NBA’s Development League in 2013-14, where he averaged 7.1 ppg while shooting 42% from the field.
Tony Bennett (Always A Brave-Bradley Alumni)-Guard
Averaged 14.8 points, 6.8 assists per game for the NBL’s Windsor Express during the 2015-16 season in Canada.
NBL Canada Champion (2015)
BallUp Million Dollar Summer Challenge Market Champion; Regular Season & Playoff MVP- Chicago (2015)
Nike Chi-League Champion (2014-Code Black)
Independent Basketball All-Star Association All-Star (2012)
Emil Clayton (Midwest Dream Squad)-Guard
Last played professionally for the Buffalo 716ers (Premier Basketball League) and the Brampton A’s (NBL Canada) during the 2014-15 season.
Scored 19 points for the Midwest Dream Squad in last year’s first round TBT matchup vs. Sconnie Legends, to help the Midwest Dream Squad cap off an 82-74 upset win to advance into the Super 16.
Sean Dockery (Midwest Dream Squad)-Guard
Former Julian HS and Duke University product; 2002 McDonald’s All-American. Was a key member of Duke’s 2004 Final Four squad alongside of future NBA players such as Chris Duhon, Shelden Williams, Luol Deng, and J.J. Redick.
194 career steals at Duke (11th in school history). Played professionally overseas for a few years following his days in Durham, making stops in Canada, France, Romania, and Germany.
Lavonte Douglas (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Forward
Played for the Windy City Groove of the ABA; played a pivotal part in helping the Groove capture a division and regional championship in 2016.
Crane Tech product; Division II standout at Missouri Western State University.
Malcolm Griffin (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Guard/Forward
Played overseas this past year in Africa for Fath Us De Rabat In Morocco; was a major key in helping Hoopville reach the Super 16 of the TBT last year.
Scored 19 points in Hoopville’s 141-47 rout of Team Mennonite Madness, and poured in 16 points to help his team squeak out a 90-84 win against Team Mill Rats in the 2015 TBT Tournament.
Nike Chi-League Champion (2015- Wright Sports); also played for Wright Sports at last year’s BallUp Million Dollar Summer Challenge.
Stefhon Hannah (The Region)-Guard
Spent this past season playing overseas in Poland for AZS Koszalin of the Polish Basketball League; also played for the NBA Development League’s Grand Rapids Drive this past season following his signing with the Chicago Bulls in the early part of the 2015-16 training camp.
BallUp Million Dollar Summer Challenge Scoring Champion-Chicago (2015)
2x NBA Development League Defensive Player of The Year and 1st Team All-Defense selection (2012, 2013)
NBA Development League Champion (2011)
Ex-Hyde Park HS and Missouri Tiger standout guard; earned first-team All-Public League and All-State honors from the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune in 2004.
Anthony Harris (Ants Alumni) - Guard
Former Whitney Young HS and University of Miami (FL) standout; shot 45% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA’s Development League during the 2015-16 season. Played in 29 games.
Helped lead the Ants Alumni squad to the Final Four of the TBT last summer, prior to being knocked off by the by Arizona’s Team23 (last year’s runner-up) in the semifinals.
Rico Hill (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Power Forward/Center
Recently wrapped up his 5th season for the ABA’s Chicago Steam; hit a spectacular shot from downtown at the buzzer last year for Hoopville to help them advance into the Super 16 against Tony Bennett’s One Chicago squad last summer.
Ex-Brother Rice HS and Illinois State phenom who led the Redbirds to two NCAA Tournaments appearances in his four years at Normal (1995-98); was drafted 31st overall in the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. Has played across overseas and America for a total of almost 18 years.
Sidney Holmes III (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Power Forward
Former Lewis University star and All-Catholic League conference member at Brother Rice HS. Played Euroleague Basketball for six years (2004-2011).
Averaged 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds last year in the TBT for Hoopville, playing in a reserve role. Played most recently for the Rochester Razorsharks of the Premier Basketball League this past season.
Mario Little (FOE)-Forward
South Side native and former Washington HS star; attended and played at the JUCO level (Chipola Junior College) prior to going to University of Kansas for the Jayhawks from 2008-11 to team up with future NBA players in Thomas Robinson, and twins Marcus & Markieff Morris.
Averaged 13.3 points per game on 41% shooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s NBA D-League affiliate (OKC Blue) in 22 games during the 2014-15 season. Also played for the Tulsa 66ers for two years in the D-League.
Recently played in the South Korean KBL league for Anyang KGC in 2015-16.
Jerel McNeal (Golden Eagles Alumni- Marquette Alumni)-Guard
2x All-NBA Development League 3rd Team (2011, 2015)
NBA Development League Impact Player of The Year (2015)
NBA Development League All-Star (2013)
All-NBA Development League 1st Team (2013)
Jonathan Mills (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Forward
BallUp Million Dollar Summer Challenge Market Champion- Chicago (2015). Last played professionally for the London Lightning (NBL Canada) during the 2014-15 season.
Former North Lawndale High School star who helped lead the Phoenix to a 2A State Championship in 2008. Played his college basketball at Southern Mississippi, where he was a 3rd team All-Conference USA selection and Conference USA All-Defensive Team member in his junior season for the Golden Eagles.
Jeremy Pargo (Few Good Men- Gonzaga Alumni)-Guard
Robeson HS and Gonzaga Bulldogs product; was named the West Coast Conference (WCC) Player of the Year in his junior year for the 2007-08 season. 2x 1st team All-WCC selection (2007, 2008); All-WCC Honorable Mention (2009).
Played in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies (2011-12), Cleveland Cavaliers (2012-2013), and Philadelphia 76ers (2013).
Has played overseas in Europe and Israel for teams such as CSKA Moscow and Maccabi Tel Aviv; most recently played for the Zhejiang Lions this season, where he averaged 24.9 points and led the Chinese Basketball Association in assists with 8.4 per game on the 2015-16 campaign. Joined Reyer Venezia for the remainder of their 2015-16 slate in Venice, Italy, following the conclusion of the Lions season.
2x Israeli League champion w/Maccabi Tel Aviv (2010, 2011), VTB League Champion w/CSKA Moscow in Russia (2014).
Anthony Spencer (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Forward
Averaged 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for Hoopville during their run towards the Super 16 in last summer’s TBT. Exploded for some monster games, scoring 28 and 22 respectively in Hoopville’s victories against Team Mennonite Madness & Team Mill Rats.
Played for the Lake Michigan Admirals of the Premier Basketball league this past season.
Cyrus Tate (Midwest Dream Squad)-Forward
Former Homewood-Flossmoor HS star; 3-year letterman at the University of Iowa. Was a team captain in his senior year for the 2008-09 Hawkeye season.
Played professionally overseas in Venezuela, Mexico, Turkey, Japan, and Israel. Had his best year in 2011 with the Tijuana Zonkeys (CIBACOPA), where he averaged 22.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in 28 games and received All-Mexican CIBACOPA Honorable Mention status by Latinbasket.com.
2013 Israeli National League champion and starting five member of Nes-Ziona; averaged 13.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 18 games played. Last played professional ball overseas with the Hamamatsu-Higashi Mikawa Phoenix in the Japan-BJ League; averaged 12.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 57 games played.
John Taylor (The Region)-Guard
Played recently in a series of friendly games against the Chinese National Team where through three games of play, he averaged 24.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists for the American United Team.
Former North Lawndale standout who played alongside fellow TBT participant Jonathan Mills (Illinois Hoopville Warriors) in high school; 2008 Class 2A State Champion (2008).
Michael Thompson (120 Sports)-Guard
Lincoln Park HS and Northwestern product; four-year letterman with the Wildcats who earned a multitude of honors throughout his college basketball career.
Voted All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by the coaches and media for the 2009-10 season; earned All-Big Ten 3rd team accolades and was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team in 2011.
Currently the 3rd all-time leading scorer in Northwestern history with 1,689 points in his career at Evanston.
Has developed a successful career in Europe since his days at Northwestern over the last several years. Averaged 17.8 points per game this past season for Pau-Orthez of the LNB Pro A league in France. Shot 48% from the field.
Zeke Upshaw (Midwest Dream Squad)- Guard/Forward
Hyde Park native; played college basketball at Illinois State for three years prior to transferring to Hofstra University for his senior year, where he led the Colonial Athletic Association in scoring with 19.8 points per game and earned All-CAA 2nd team honors for his play throughout the 2013-14 season.
Played in 30 games for the Helio Suns Domzale of the Slovenia- Telemach League during the 2014-15 season; averaged 9.8 points per game and shot 42% from the field while leading his team to the Slovenian League semifinals in 2015.
Played in 27 games for Basket Esch of the Luxembourg- Total League during the 2015-16 season; averaged 20.9 points per game with 7.6 rebounds en route to shooting 51% from the field and 41% from three-point range on the year. Eurobasket.com All-Luxembourg League Honorable Mention in 2016.
Nike Chi-League Champion (2015- Wright Sports)
Phillip Watson (The Region)-Guard
Von Steuben HS product; One of the top players to ever come out of St. Xavier University. Ranks 16th in the program’s history in points, 6th in assists, and is amongst the top ten in steals. Has played professionally for the Chicago Rockstars of the ABA, Elgin Racers of the International Basketball League.
Aaron Weaver (Illinois Hoopville Warriors)-Guard
Crane Tech and North Park University product; has played in the Midwest Professional Basketball Association for the Champaign Swarm (2013-14) and Rochester Rockets (2014-15), where he averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game to help them win a championship.
Jeremiah Wilson (The Region)-Forward
Former Hyde Park HS star; played for Benfica in Portugal last season where he averaged 14.2 points and 10.5 rebounds in the FIBA Europe Cup. Shot 35% from 3-point range.