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Ohio State's Jared Sullinger aiming for younger Carmen's Crew in 2023 TBT return

The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus Dispatch
 2022-07-12
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A lot can change in three years.

Inside Chicago’s Wintrust Arena, the members of Carmen’s Crew were celebrating both a title and a payday. The team comprised primarily of former Ohio State men’s basketball players had just taken home its first The Basketball Tournament championship and, with it, the $2 million winner-take-all check. It was 2019.

This weekend, TBT returns with a $1 million prize for the winner of the 64-team event. But for the first time since 2017, the unofficial Ohio State alumni team won’t be participating. In a social media post made June 7, coach Jared Sullinger announced that the Buckeyes would not be fielding a team and encouraged their fans to support the event at its regional sites.

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After playing in Sunday’s Kingdom Summer League at Ohio Dominican University, Sullinger said they were scrambling to finalize a roster before realizing they would have to turn their focus ahead a year.

“We have a lot of guys that was playing a lot of minutes overseas and at the time we was scrambling to try to get enough guys to make a full roster and we couldn’t do it at the moment,” Sullinger said. “We’re going to expand our time and look forward to the next year.”

Carmen’s Crew suffered a first-round upset in the 2020 tournament, which was the first major basketball event to be staged since the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Ohio State’s Covelli Center served as a host site but the No. 1 seeded team of Buckeyes was upset by No. 5 seed The Money Crew in the regional semifinal.

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Now, the plan is to return in 2023 but potentially with a different-looking roster.

“We’re going to try to get younger,” Sullinger said. “It’s not really hard (to find new guys) when you’ve got (Ohio State coach Chris) Holtmann bringing in pros every day. You’ve got to give credit to Holtmann. As long as he keeps getting pros and they do all four years and they want to play TBT then they’ve got an open door to us.”

Sullinger joked that pretty soon he’d be kicking David Lighty and William Buford, Ohio State stars who are older than him, “out the (dang) door” in favor of new blood. Buford suffered a knee injury while playing in Germany and would’ve been unavailable this summer.

After playing for the Buckeyes during the 2018-19 season, Keyshawn Woods made his inaugural appearance for Carmen’s Crew last summer. Like Sullinger, he’s playing in this summer’s Kingdom Summer League event.

Woods spent part of the 2021-22 season recovering from injury before signing to play first in Greece and then Turkey to close out the year. He chose not to participate in this year’s TBT.

“I’m honestly not mad,” he said. “I could’ve played. I had a chance to play, but I just wanted to really work on my game and get in shape this summer and honestly spend a lot of time with my family. I’ve been away, so this really gave me a chance to be with my family too.

“I’m sad I’m not playing, but I’m not mad about it, if you know what I’m saying.”

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