TBT 2022

Friday Beers team logo.

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A million dollars can buy you a lot of beer.

Bennington’s AJ Mahar is preparing for his eighth year of chasing the million dollar winner-take-all prize of The Basketball Tournament (TBT), a 64 team, single-elimination tournament filled with current and former professional athletes with his team, Friday Beers.

What is the TBT? Think March Madness style basketball with a twist; a seven figure payout to the last team standing.

Mahar — a former Mount Anthony standout athlete and basketball coach — serves as the General Manager of Team Friday Beers, formerly known as Armored Athlete.

According to its website, Friday Beers is a “comedy platform and lifestyle brand. We make content about the stuff all of us do every week, and especially on the weekend. Because we’re all in this thing together. If it’s not Friday, it’s Almost Friday.”

Friday Beers has 1.7 million followers on Instagram.

When it comes to TBT experience, Mahar is one of the most seasoned veterans. His first TBT came in 2015, the second year of the tournament. Over the past seven years, his teams have amassed a 14-7 record, the fourth-most wins in TBT history. That sort of experience gives his squad a leg-up on the competition according to the GM.

“We constantly keep tweaking things to try to become better and do something better than we did the year before.”

Last season, Armored Athlete drew the No. 4 seed, winning its first round matchup against HBCUnited before getting bounced by the Bucketneers in the second round.

One thing that will remain the same is head coach Adam Ross, who is back for his fourth season leading the team.

“People don’t understand how intense, how well run and organized, how much fun it is and all the things that TBT truly is until they actually experience it and go through it; So to have other people that you can bounce ideas off of is definitely an advantage.”

The rosterAnother main staple for TBT has been Malcolm Miller, a 2019 NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors who is back for another year.

Having somebody like Miller — a 6-foot 7 wing — gives Friday Beers options on both ends of the floor. Mahar looks at Miller as his team’s lockdown defender. He mentioned Miller’s defense on Victor Oladipo in 2017-2018, the same year Oladipo was named an NBA All-Star as well as named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

“Malcolm has that versatility where he has the IQ and the length. [He has] the physical attributes to be really good defensively, plus the experience and he’s done it at the highest level.”

While Miller is the lone returning player for Friday Beers, he’s not the only one with NBA experience on the roster.

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Jarrell Brantley was the 50th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Mahar describes him as a player who can do anything offensively. He’s just as comfortable bringing the ball up the court as he is playing in the post or on the wing.

“He’s just so insanely versatile and a complete matchup nightmare offensively,” said Mahar. “He really is a Swiss Army knife.”

His brother, Jamaal, joins him on the roster.

Eric Griffin is somebody with TBT experience, playing for Team 23 last year and having the second-best plus-minus of any player in the tournament. He joins Friday Beers this summer.

“I think he’s going to be a very critical piece in the front court for us,” Mahar said.

And one piece Mahar thinks could be the glue for Friday Beers is Josh Perkins, a point guard who is Gonzaga’s all-time assist leader. He offers Friday Beers something different than their typical approach.

“In the past we’ve tried to have guards go get a bucket and just take over games,” Mahar said. “Josh has that capability, but I think when Josh really thrives is when he’s making everybody else better.”

Name changeFriday Beers reached out to TBT about getting a team together. Mahar describes the Barrett brothers, who started Friday Beers, as ‘hoop junkies.’

“We jumped on a phone call with the Barrett brothers and the mesh was natural. Nothing was forced and we just hit it off immediately.”

Being able to share the TBT experience with fellow lovers of basketball is something the GM is excited about.

“One of the reasons why I do this year in and year out is to allow other people to experience who and how awesome the event is,” Mahar said. “To bring in other hoop junkies that haven’t experienced it before, I’m so stoked for these guys.”

Mahar was somewhat familiar with who Friday Beers was prior to his first interaction with them.

One player on the Friday Beers roster, Frankie Ferrari, is a huge fan of the company.

“He couldn’t believe it when we told him that’s who we were,” Mahar said. “His mind was just kind of blown.”

No. 3 Friday Beers tips off at noon on July 22 at SRC ARENA in Syracuse, New York against No. 6 Mental Toughness. Friday Beers is hoping its company slogan ‘it just hits different’ rings true on the court this summer.

Michael Mawson can be reached on Twitter @Mawson_Sports or via email at mmawson@benningtonbanner.com.

Sports Reporter

Michael Mawson is the sports editor for Vermont News & Media. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Hampshire in 2019. Michael was the sports editor of UNH’s student newspaper where he covered NCAA Division I athletics.


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