John Calipari: Devin Booker vs DeMarcus Cousins
University of Kentucky basketball alumni will be back en masse in July when The Basketball Tournament hosts a regional in Lexington for the first time.
Those expected to be in town include DeMarcus Cousins, currently playing in the NBA Finals for the Golden State Warriors, and a team of former UK players known as the Bluegrass Boys. Additionally, former Bryan Station High School standout Shelvin Mack of the Charlotte Hornets will coach one of the teams playing in Lexington.
Cousins is the general manager for a team called Loyalty is Love. The team’s roster includes Daniel Orton who played for UK during the 2009-10 season before being drafted by the Orlando Magic and eventually ending up in the Turkish Basketball First League. Also on the team is Cousins’ younger brother, Jaleel, a former South Florida center.
The Lexington portion of the national tournament will take place at Frederick Douglass High School, July 19-21. The winner of the Lexington Regional will advance to the tournament’s championship week, August 1-6 in Chicago, where it will compete for a grand prize of $2 million against winners from seven other regions.
Anyone can apply to enter a team in The Basketball Tournament, but only 64 are chosen.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Lexington this summer to support my TBT squad, Team Loyalty is Love, as we look to bring home the championship,” Cousins said in a press release. “Kentucky fans have been so great to my family and I, and it’s always special coming back. TBT is the premier basketball event in the summertime, and I’m excited to be a part of it for the first time this year.”
This will be Loyalty is Love’s first appearance in the tournament, which has taken place since 2014. The team will open in Lexington against the Hoopville Warriors, a team largely made up of players from Chicago who attended smaller colleges.
The Bluegrass Boys team will be making its second appearance in The Basketball Tournament, as the No. 2 seed in Lexington.
The Bluegrass Boys is entirely composed of ex-UK players. The team’s general manager is Mark Krebs, and they will be coached by Wayne Turner. The Bluegrass Boys roster includes Kevin Galloway, Josh Harrellson, Ramon Harris, Dominique Hawkins, Marcus Lee, AJ Stewart and Derek Willis.
“Playing in front of the Big Blue Nation is one of the greatest feelings a player can experience,” Turner said in the press release. “The Lexington Regional has a strong field, but with this team and these fans, I like our chances.”
The team was the top seed in the Midwest Regional in 2016 but lost in the round of 16 to the Jackson (Tenn.) Underdawgs. In a press release, Krebs said that he learned a lot from that team-building experience.
“We will be able to field the team that we want on the court from the beginning,” Krebs said. “Having our fans be a part of it is everything. I don’t think we could be more excited to be in Lexington in front of our fans again.”
The team coached by Mack is called the Kentucky Basketball Commission. Mack’s roster includes 2004 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Chris Lofton, who starred at Tennessee, as well as Eastern Kentucky’s all-time leading scorer, Nick Mayo, and AJ Slaughter, who played at Western Kentucky. 2019 will be the team’s first appearance in The Basketball Tournament.
In another one of the tournament’s unique features, the winner of each regional will take home 25 percent of the gate proceeds.
Tickets are available at www.thetournament.com, and the some of the games will be televised on ESPN’s networks.
Regionals will also play out this summer in Richmond, Va.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Columbus, Ohio; Syracuse, N.Y.; Greensboro, N.C.; Wichita, Kan.; and Memphis, Tenn.
Lexington Regional schedule
At Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington
4 and 6 p.m.: Regional semifinals
2 p.m.: Regional championship game