Boeheim’s Army returns for another year with The Basketball Tournament, and they open their quest for the million dollar winner-take-all championship on July 24 at 12 p.m. against Forces of Seoul on ESPN. We caught up with Kevin Belbey on this week’s The Juice on the Cuse Podcast to chat about the team’s chances this year.
Needless to say, Belbey, the team’s general manager, is bullish on this year’s team.
“I think we have the best roster in TBT history,” Belbey says on the podcast. “You can mark me down as saying that.”
He may be right. Boeheim’s Army features three former NBA first round draft picks this year in Tyler Lydon, Malachi Richardson and Chris McCullough, and two other players (Andrew White III and DJ Kennedy) who have played in the NBA. The rest of the roster is rounded out by Syracuse legends Eric Devendorf, CJ Fair, and Paschal Chukwu, along with Tyrese Rice (Boston College) and DeAndre Kane (Iowa State).
The additions of Kane and Kennedy are particularly important for BA. Both have played with Overseas Elite, a team that has won the TBT four separate times.
“I think (Kane is) the toughest player in the Tournament,” Belbey says. “You’re going to see him on the floor for loose balls, blocking shots, and creating havoc and turnovers on defense.”
While Boeheim’s Army focused more on offensive stars in the past, this year’s roster features more role players.
“Intentionally, this year, we wanted to get a little grittier and a little tougher,” Belbey says. “You need guys who are not necessary concerned with getting their own points that are focused on the team’s success and do whatever it takes to win.”
The (mostly) Syracuse alumni team will also have a different head coach this year. SU alum Ryan Blackwell coached the team the last five years, but recently had a baby and will assume an associate head coach role. The team will be coached by Jeremy Pope, a name that is familiar in Syracuse circles.
“(He) is a disciple of (former Syracuse associate head coach) Mike Hopkins,” Belbey says. “He was a (graduate assistant) out of Washington, so he’s absolutely familiar with the 2-3 zone.”
With a well balanced roster and a revamped coaching and managing staff, Belbey has set the bar high.
“Every year, this thing grows in popularity,” Belbey says. “(Former NBA All-Star) Joe Johnson played in this last year. There’s no glory in second place. You have to put together a team that you believe can get you over that hump and win the million dollar prize. We think this is the team to do it.”
Afterward, TJO editor in chief Brad Bierman calls in to break down a monumental shift for college athletics with athletes allowed to cash in on their name, image and likeness.