The Basketball Tournament finished its seventh season with the Golden Eagles beating Sideline Cancer. There were twenty four teams competing in the 2020 TBT (including nine alumni teams) who traveled to Columbus.
The teams had to isolate themselves in their own bubble and had to be tested regularly in order to play. The tournament has grown substantially in its existence while growing in teams and viewership.
It seems like the names who participate in the tournament get bigger every year thus grabbing our eye and keeping us glued to it. The Basketball Tournament has featured several prominent names including Jimmer Fredette, Duncan Robinson, Perry Ellis, Jared Sullinger, and many more.
However it isn’t always the big names that catch our eye but it can be the smaller ones that we may remember from their college days. The type of player who you think of one day and wonder what happened to them, a player who seemingly exited the limelight as soon as they graduated.
These articles are designed to remember all those heroes who at one point dominated water cooler conversations around the office and are now trying to win a championship on a different stage – the TBT stage.
Basketball Society writers, T.J. Oxley and Randy King will be going through each of the twenty four teams in our four part series and remind you of each TBT team’s star. Last week we saw TJ discuss fellow hoopers such as Kellen Dunham, DJ Newbill, Jon Elmore, Mike Daum, Nick Johnson, and Joe Johnson.
Here are Randy’s first series of TBT stars.
[Check out TJ’s here: Reputation, Recolation, and the TBT – Nostalgia of Former Hoop Stars: Part One]
Eric Devendorf – Boeheim’s Army
There are certain names that are synonymous with certain programs. For Syracuse University, that name would have to be Eric Devendorf. Devendorf made a name for himself first in high school playing for powerhouse Oak-Hill Academy. In his senior season, he was a main contributor to the 2005 squad that would in turn be named the national high school champions. Devendorf would be named a McDonald’s All-American, a third-team Parade All-American, and the 33rd overall national ranking.
The Syracuse legend would get immediate playing time and would even manage to get into the starting unit in 30 of 35 games. As a freshman, Devendorf averaged 12.2 PPG and earned Big East 1st team honors. The following season, Devendorf had repeated success averaging 14.8 PPG and was listed as an All-Big East Honorable mention.
As a Junior, Devendorf had an explosive year, averaging a career-best 17.0 PPG and one of the leaders for the Orange although no accolades were handed down following the season. To close out his playing campaign in central New York, he finished with 15.7 PPG and notched 82 three-pointers on the season.
Devendorf never did quite impress NBA scouts in the 2009 NBA draft and went undrafted. He landed on the D-league team for the Reno Big Horns but it was short lived as he was released just few days after. He then went on to jump from one overseas team to another until he decided to head back to where his original fame and glory started, Syracuse. This time in the form of an assistant coach for the Orange under Jim Boeheim.
2009 | Eric Devendorf hits the game winning shot but was waved off after official review. The game continued for 6OTs. Despite the call, Syracuse was still able to get the win 127-117. pic.twitter.com/lf5poj3lRh
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) January 20, 2018
Darius Johnson-Odom – Golden Eagles
Darius Johnson-Odom was a self made superstar at the university of Marquette. His continued growth throughout his time in college and his spectacular play in the Big East conference made him one of the nation’s top two-way players in college at the time. He is now a TBT champion.
Not nationally ranked in the top 100 out of high school, Johnson-Odom had to go the route of community college and would attend Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. While at HCC, Johnson-Odom would go on to earn the Jayhawk West Conference Freshman of the year honors, 1st team all conference and all region honoree while averaging 21.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 4.6 APG.
His achievements in the NJCAA earned him an opportunity to play basketball with the Golden Eagles of Marquette. In his first season there, he would join the starting rotation alongside current NBA superstar Jimmy Butler. Johnson-Odom would finish the season averaging 13.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.4 APG and Marquette would be upset in the first round to the University of Washington, led by Isaiah Thomas
His junior year, Johnson-Odom became the leading scorer for Marquette, ahead of teammates Butler and Jae Crowder. In that season, he averaged 15.9 PPG, 3.0 PRG 2.4 APG and managed to get to the sweet 16 after overcoming being the 11 seed and defeating six-seeded Xavier followed by the third seeded Syracuse. At seasons end he was named to the Big-East second team.
His senior season, Johnson-Odom would again lead Marquette in scoring with 18.3 PPG and would finish second in the Big-East scoring that season. This high-scoring average would allow Johnson-Odom to earn Big-East 1st team honors. Marquette would get to the sweet 16 yet again before losing to the number seven seeded Florida Gators and Bradley Beal.
Heading into the 2012 NBA draft, he would be viewed as a second round pick and did just that as he was selected with the 55th pick by the Dallas Mavericks who traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was not a long NBA career for him however as he only managed to appear in just 21 total minutes over the course of two seasons without scoring.
From there, Johnson-Odom then took his game overseas where he played in several different leagues which included the Eurocup league, CBA China, Lega Serie A, and the Greek Basketball League. In eight seasons of playing overseas, he finished in the top 10 in scoring in four of those seasons.
He is currently under contract with Reggio Emilia in the Italian League.
Darius Johnson-Odom (@KingMe_DJ1) hits a big three en route to a 66-62 @MarquetteMBB victory over #12 Syracuse (@Cuse_MBB) on March 20, 2011 sending Marquette to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen #mubb pic.twitter.com/YxavBuTfMK
— Marquette Overload (@MUOverload) July 2, 2020
Isaiah Austin – Heartfire
When one talks about the NBA being robbed of talent, no one player is a more clear representation of that than Isaiah Austin. Not only was Austin highly sought-after as a high-school prospect but also as a promising NBA prospect.
7’0” Isaiah Austin the #3 Ranked player in 2012. Can score it from anywhere, and has elite touch. pic.twitter.com/iDXoOBrtCi
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 13, 2020
As you can see, Austin was a phenomenal high school player who drew a lot of national attention for his length that allowed him to be extremely gifted defensively. This dominance at Grace Preparatory Academy earned him the number three national ranking among high school prospects.
Of course, several top colleges were chomping at the bit to have Austin play his collegiate basketball there. The final five schools that it came down to was Kentucky, Baylor, Georgetown, Houston, and Texas. Austin signed his intent with Baylor and the rest is history.
In his freshman season, Austin would start in 35 games for Baylor and would follow through on his promise as a high recruit. He would finish the year with 13.0 PPG, 8.3 PPG, and 1.7 BPG which earned him several post-season awards and honors.
Those averages would be good enough to allow him to finish third in the Big 12 in rebounds and fourth in blocks. Austin earned All-Big 12 third team and the Big-12 Freshman of the Year. Baylor would not make the big dance and would compete in the NIT tournament where he would make the all-tournament team.
The following season, Austin would go onto dominant defensively becoming one of the top rim-protectors in the nation. Austin finished with 3.1 BPG, which ranked first in the NCAA and first in the Big 12.
Those block totals would give him Big 12 All-Defense honors and would lead Baylor into the post-season. The Bears would get into the sweet 16 before losing to the number two-seeded Wisconsin. Austin then set his sights on the NBA.
Unfortunately for everybody, Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome during the pre-draft physical which forced him to be medically ineligible to be drafted. However, after two and a half years, Austin was cleared to resume play again.
Once he was cleared to play he signed on with FMP Beograd of the Adriatic league and continues to jump around internationally. One of his most recent and notable stops was in the Chinese CBA league where he swatted away 2.0 BPG, which was third best in the league that season. Along with the blocks, Austin dominated by averaging 22.9 PPG and 11.4 RPG.
We may not have gotten to see him on the NBA stage but I believe it goes without saying that any basketball fan out there is happy to hear that he is back playing the game and is healthy.
Isaac Haas – Men of Mackey
As a pure mountain of a man, not many people have forgotten how dominant Isaac Haas was in his time with the Purdue Boilermakers. Standing at 7’2″, he gave colleges across the nation nightmares getting shots off on him as well as defending him on the other end.
Haas first made a name for himself playing for Hokes Bluff high school in Alabama where he became the sixth best player in the state and the nations 87th best player according to ESPN Top 100 high school prospects. Along with his physical presence, Haas was mentally tough as he managed to obtain a 4.0 GPA throughout high school.
After turning down schools such as Virginia, UCLA, Butler, and Texas, Haas decided to attend Purdue. It took Haas three seasons until he became a full-time starter, but proved throughout his freshman and junior years to be an effective bench player who could step-in as a place-starter.
Each of the first three season, he improved in his scoring averages from the previous year. The most notable jump was from his sophomore season to his junior season where he went from averaging 8.8 PPG to 12.6 PPG. This increased role as Purdue’s second leading scorer behind Caleb Swanigan and All-Big Ten honorable mention honors, allowed the Boilermakers to get to the Sweet 16.
In his senior season, Haas became one of the best players in the nation at finishing around the rim with the eighth best field-goal percentage at 61.7%. Again, Haas would finish as the team’s second leading scorer behind Carsen Edwards and the team would make another Sweet 16 appearance, losing to Texas Tech.
Haas would finish his senior season with 14.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 1.3 BPG and declare for the NBA draft. Unfortunately, Haas went undrafted and landed on the Utah Jazz summer league roster. Haas averaged just three points per game and just under four rebounds per game and was eventually cut before the season began.
Eventually being picked back up for the Jazz to be placed on the Jazz G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, Haas has averaged 9.9 PPG and 7.9 PPG respectively in two seasons.
— Purdue Mens Basketball (@BoilerBall) November 11, 2017
Aaron Craft – Carmen’s Crew
If you could have a poster boy for Ohio State basketball, Aaron Craft would hands down be the choice from all of the Buckeye faithful. After playing four seasons (which felt like forever), Craft left a legacy on the Ohio State program that is going to be near impossible to re-create.
Ranked as the 93rd best high school recruit and the 20th best point guard in the 2010 class out of Liberty Benton high school according 247Sports.com, Craft was not as highly touted a prospect as many players that attend Ohio State. However, that wouldn’t stop Craft from proving that he was worth all the recruiting done by head coach Thad Matta.
As a freshman, Craft would average 6.9 PPG, 2.0 SPG, with only two games as a starter. He would lead the Buckeyes in assists with 4.9 APG, and would help in making them the nations top offensive rated team as well as the 14th best defensive unit.
The ability to come off the bench and average those numbers earned Craft: Big Ten All-Defense honors, a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team, and Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.
Coming off a great freshman campaign and an appearance in the Sweet 16, Craft would get the keys to the offense as a starter in his second year. Craft would not disappoint and would lead the Buckeyes to the Final Four before before losing to Kansas.
Statistically, Craft would lead the team in assists (4.6 APG) and steals (2.9 SPG) while again making them one of the top teams in offensive (18th) and defensive rating (5th). This season, Craft earned Big Ten All-Defense honors as well as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Similar story lines followed for Craft his junior and senior campaign, Ohio State would make it to the Elite Eight as a junior but would have an early first round exit as a senior. Both seasons, Craft would again lead the team in assists and steals and would earn several more accolades along the way.
As a junior, Craft finished second in steals and assists in the Big 10 which earned him: All-Big Ten 1st Team, Big Ten All-Defense, All-Big Ten Tournament 1st Team, and Big Ten Tournament MVP.
Wrapping up his career as a senior, Craft made the Big Ten All-Defense team, earned the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and became the NABC Defensive Player of the Year by finishing first in the Big 10 in steals and second in assists.
He finished his career with the most steals in Big 10 history (337), sixth in NCAA history in minutes played (1st in Big 10 history – 4,818 MP), fifth all time in the Big 10 with 694 career assists, and has the best defensive plus minus in Big 10 history (eighth in NCAA history) with a 6.1 rating.
Craft would go undrafted but would eventually land on the Golden State Warriors G-league affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors.
In his first season there, Craft would finish tied for the league lead in steals per game with 2.5 SPG and seventh in assists with 6.2 APG. Then in his last season with Santa Cruz, Craft upped his assist total and finished fifth in steals and second in assists.
Craft would take his game abroad and play for several different leagues since 2015-2016 such as the: Eurocup, Lega Serie A, and the LNB Pro A.
While Craft did not have the success in the pros like he did in college, he will forever be immortalized for those four years in Columbus, Ohio.
Can we bring back Aaron Craft for this game against Iowa State? pic.twitter.com/HtbrxTSUHh
— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) March 17, 2019