It was a roster made in St. Bonaventure basketball heaven.
And it was as tantalizing for the curiosities it would have quelled as it was for its talent.
What would it have been like if Marcus Posley and Matt Mobley, the latter of whom succeeded the former, who’d previously only practiced together, shared a backcourt?
We’d have seen it.
What if Courtney Stockard had actually been able to play with Posley, the way he was supposed to in 2015-16, the year Bona won a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season championship? We’d have watched it unfold.
What if Demitrius Conger, Denzel Gregg and LaDarien Griffin — three of the most athletic and best-dunking Bonnies in recent memory — took the floor at the same time? We’d have witnessed the sheer entertainment of it.
Over the last several weeks, those and other former Bona standouts, including Dion Wright, had committed to joining “Brown & White,” the first Bona alumni team in The Basketball Tournament, a 5-on-5, winner-take-all event staged each summer throughout the U.S. and aired on ESPN.
Unfortunately, and much to the dismay of its fans, that team won’t be coming to fruition … at least this year.
UNDER ordinary circumstances, the TBT features a 64-team field, with squads playing at eight regional sites around the country in late July/early August, and a head-turning grand prize of $2 million.
Interestingly, this year’s event is still on.
But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the TBT was forced to change its format, condensing the field to only 24 teams, confining the tournament to one location — at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, from July 4-14, where all players and staff will essentially be quarantined together and play in an empty venue — and dropping the prize money down to $1 million.
As recently as May, team founder Derek Howard, an Olean resident and Bona graduate who’d done the legwork of filling out the application and assembling the roster, was told that Brown & White’s place in the 64-team field was essentially a lock. But when the event was narrowed to 24 teams, and the field was unveiled Tuesday, the Bona alumni team wasn’t among the squads listed.
“Unfortunately, (the TBT) did not select us as part of their 24-team field,” a tweet from the team’s Twitter account, @BrownWhiteTBT, read. “We’re disappointed because we wanted to put on a show for one of the most passionate fan bases in college hoops, but we understand that trimming the field from 64 to 24 is no easy task.
“We hope this great team (which was going to be coached by former assistant Dave Moore and team manager Steve Marcus) will be ready to represent SBU again when things are back to normal next year. And if they find a team this summer, you know we’ll all be watching!”
WHAT’S CURIOUS is the reason for Brown & White’s exclusion.
In the weeks after announcing the change in format, the TBT emphasized that the No. 1 criterion for inclusion would be fan support.
Its faithful following is one of the reasons a Bona alumni team figured to be such a hit in the first place. Aside from the talent assembled, it was why Howard was told as far back as February that Brown & White’s application was all but guaranteed to be one of the 64 selected for the 2020 iteration.
Bona fans, as one might expect, rallied around the effort, registering in droves on the TBT’s official website. And as of June 10, it was among the top three teams in that category, with 400 registered fans and counting.
In the end, however, it was left out.
And that means either a handful of other teams had volumes of fans register at the last minute (which seems unlikely), the TBT didn’t weigh fan support as much as it said it was going to or it, understandably, favored the teams who have had a long-standing presence in the TBT’s seven-year history.
MAKE NO mistake, these guys were eager to come together under the St. Bonaventure name — to play for a $2 million payout — once again.
“Bona fans, what’s going on?” Posley asked in his official commitment video earlier this month. “I’m excited to announce that I’ll be suiting up with the Brown & White for TBT 2020 this summer. It should be really fun; I’m looking for some competitive basketball, chasing after two mil with some familiar faces. So, excited, ready for you guys to bring the energy like you always have and let’s go Bonas.”
Brown & White, the team noted, had also drawn interest from former all-conference big man Youssou Ndoye and guards Matthew Wright and Charlon Kloof, though border restrictions prevented the former two from traveling while Kloof is currently rehabbing an injury.
Its hope, and certainly that of Bona fans, is to be back, with the same lineup intact, next summer.
“While COVID-19 certainly derailed ours and the TBT’s plans in 2020, we have a lot of momentum for next year,” another tweet read, “and are confident we’ll be a high seed in the Syracuse Regional (and actually get to play in front of our fans!”
(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)