Overseas Elite remains just that in The Basketball Tournament
Team of players from around the world takes home third straight title
BALTIMORE – As yellow confetti filled the air after Overseas Elite won The Basketball Tournament (TBT) title, DeJuan Blair skipped around the floor of the Physical Education Complex at Coppin State, grabbing anyone willing to accept his sweaty embrace.
“This is amazing,” screamed Blair, who never tasted this feeling in the NBA as his four-year career with the San Antonio Spurs ended in 2011, just one year before the team’s last title. “Absolutely amazing.”
Nearby D.J. Kennedy, who got a taste of the NBA playing two games with Cleveland in 2012, was greeting family members who had made the drive down from Pittsburgh.
“This is still special,” said Kennedy, the former St. John’s star who has played on all three Overseas Elite title teams. “I’ve never played with a bunch of guys that I loved so much.”
In a tournament that featured teams with former collegiate players from Syracuse, Ohio State and other big-name schools, it was Overseas Elite — a collection of stars who play hoops at basketball outposts around the world — who took Thursday night’s tournament title with an 86-83 win over Team Challenge ALS. In winning the tournament, Overseas Elite claimed the winner-take-all top prize of $2 million.
That’s not a bad take for winning six games. Each of the 11 players on the Overseas Elite roster gets a check for $147,000, the general manager receives $132,999 and the coach $50,000. Even C.J. McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers guard who signed a $106 million extension last year, walks away with a check totaling $1. He signed on as a booster to support his brother, Errick McCollum, who scored two points in 19 minutes in the title game.
Launched four years ago with a 32-team bracket, a top prize of $500,000 and no television, the TBT continues to grow. The 64-team bracket now mirrors the NCAA tournament (with many schools represented), the prize has been increased to $2 million and ESPN televised the final four games.
The power schools draw passionate fans, and many wondered about the size of the crowd on Thursday after teams from Syracuse and Ohio State — two schools that had big followings during Tuesday’s semifinals — were eliminated. But the stands at Coppin State University were packed, with local legends Carmelo Anthony and former Georgetown guard Reggie Williams watching from courtside.
Former Arizona guard Kyle Fogg won the MVP award for the second straight year, coming off the bench to score a game-high 29 points. Fogg, unlike Blair and Kennedy, has no NBA experience beyond a couple of summer league stints with the Houston Rockets (2012) and Denver Nuggets (2013). But Fogg is an international star, winning scoring titles in Germany and Finland while also playing on this year’s EuroCup championship team. He proved Thursday that his scoring skills are transferable, hitting huge shots all game.
“To get a chance to play at home, with family and friends watching, is amazing,” Fogg said. “You know how tough it is to win something three years in a row, in a single-elimination format? With the money, there’s so much pressure.”
No one on Thursday felt as much pressure as Team Challenge ALS guard Sean Marshall. He brought his team together to raise money and awareness for his Boston College roommate, Pete Frates, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
With this team trailing, 84-82, Marshall stole an inbounds pass and was fouled with 3.2 seconds left — giving him a chance to tie the game and keep his team’s chance at $2 million alive.
In perhaps the biggest pressure free throws he ever faced, Marshall missed the first before making the second. He spent the final seconds walking around the court dejected and was seemingly in tears as he sat on the bench in disbelief after the game ended.
“I’m sure that weighed on him,” Fogg said. “To be in a single-game situation with so much money on a free throw? That has to be tough.”
Will Overseas Elite return next year for a chance at a fourth straight title? Errick McCollum said there are no guarantees.
“A lot of people don’t know that we sacrifice a lot,” McCollum said. “We have family, friends some guys are married and others engaged.
“We play 10 months out of the year, and our summers are for family and it’s tough to do this. Hopefully we can come back. Maybe they might have to up [the prize money] a little bit.”
What’s the magic number to get Overseas Elite to return?
“Maybe four million,” McCollum said. “Four million might get us off the couch.”