Men of Mackey prepare for third TBT
While the Men of Mackey will compete for the million-dollar grand prize in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) for the third consecutive year, putting a team together is easier said than done.
General manager Ryan Kay, the 2009 Purdue graduate living in Fort Wayne, has been hard at work putting together a roster, seeking to find a blend of former Purdue men's basketball players and talented players with local connections to create the most competitive and engaging roster possible. But, it has been a challenge, especially trying to recruit overseas players who now have family commitments.
"It's not like fantasy basketball where you can just draft guys onto your team; guys have a lot going on over the summer," said Kay. "It's a grind playing overseas. They want to come back and enjoy time with family or may be dealing with injury stuff."
As it currently stands, four former Boilermakers will join coach Ryne Smith on the 2022 Men of Mackey roster. The headline name is Purdue legend and current college basketball color commentator Robbie Hummel, who returns for his second year with the team after finishing second on the team in scoring in last year's TBT.
Smith, is the Mercer Director of Basketball Operations for former Boilermaker assistant coach Greg Gary.
Last year's leading scorer, former Purdue guard Kelsey Barlow, will suit up for Men of Mackey again next month. Kay felt that Barlow was the best player in last year's Columbus Regional of TBT, citing his development as a shooter as a major reason for his success.
A former teammate of both Hummel and Barlow, point guard Lewis Jackson joins the team for the second-consecutive year. "What he brings both from a production standpoint and leadership leadership is huge for our team," Kay said about Jackson.
Jon Octeus, who has played on all three Men of Mackey teams, rounds out the group of former Boilers on the roster. During last year's TBT, Octeus missed the tournament's first game and was limited in the second game as he had just recovered from a case of COVID-19.
Though several players on the roster did not play their collegiate basketball at Purdue, Kay looks for guys with connections to either the state of Indiana or the Purdue program to fill out the squad.
"We want our fans to be able to root for all the players. I've always tried to look at it through the lens of a Purdue basketball fan and I'd want to be excited about this team," Kay said.
Former Penn State forward John Harrar is one of those names connected to the Purdue program after playing for former Purdue assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry in State College last season. Kay referred to Harrar as a "double-double machine" after averaging 10.6 points and 10.3 rebounds for the Nittany Lions in his senior season.
Ty Nash (Notre Dame) played for Men of Mackey last season and will return to the team again this summer. Nash earned MVP honors in the 2014 TBT playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni, making him one of the most seasoned players in the event.
Other players on the 2022 Men of Mackey include former Indiana All-Star and NAIA All-American Kyle Mangas (Warsaw HS/Indiana Wesleyan), Luis Jacobo (Purdue Fort Wayne) and Cameron Delaney (Sam Houston State). In addition to all being quality additions to the roster, Kay also targeted these players due to their character.
While the roster is complete as of now, Kay is still open to adding a player if the right player would be able to join the team.
Though the roster construction process took more turns than anticipated, Kay feels this group can compete at a high level in TBT."
Ryne and I's goal is that when the ball tips in any game, we can win it. We want to be competitive and I think we will feel that way," Kay said. "I think we have all the pieces to go all the way."
Improved outside shooting is one of the biggest reasons for Kay's optimism/. He referenced Hummel, Barlow and Mangas as guys who can fill it up from beyond the arc to help the team.
One of the most intriguing parts of TBT comes at the end of each game, which utilizes the "Elam Ending."
The clock turns off at the first dead ball with less than four minutes to go. Eight points are added to the leading team's point total, creating a "target score." Once either team reaches the target point total, the game ends. For example, if Men of Mackey leads 70-65 when the Elam Ending begins, the first team to reach 78 points will be victorious.
"You have to have different strategies for the end of the game than you would use in college or professional basketball," said Kay. The non-traditional ending to games helps make TBT unique and adds to the event's appeal. In Men of Mackey's first-ever game in the 2020 TBT, they trailed to Heartfire when the Elam Ending began, but they rallied to advance to the second round.
Men of Mackey will play in the Dayton Regional of the 2022 TBT, which begins on July 24. Kay chose to play in Dayton as it's the closest regional to Purdue's campus, looking to make it easy for fans to travel to the event. Last year, Men of Mackey played in the Columbus regional and Kay noticed a strong turnout from Purdue fans.
Within the next few weeks, Men of Mackey will know their first round opponent in the Dayton Regional, held at UD Arena. Other teams in the Dayton Regional will include alumni teams from Marquette and Dayton in addition to "The Money Team," a group organized by boxer Floyd Mayweather. Kay expects these to all be strong teams, especially Mayweather's.
The Men of Mackey team is 100% self-funded, so Kay is always searching for donations or sponsorship partners. Should Men of Mackey win the championship and earn the one million dollar prize, every player on the roster has committed to donating a portion of the winnings to the Tyler Trent Foundation. Information about supporting the team financially can be found at menofmackey.com.
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