Armored Athlete grabs No. 2 seed in Syracuse region

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BENNINGTON — Armored Athlete finally gets a look at what its road will be when the ball tips off in the 2019 incarnation of The Basketball Tournament.

The team, who enters their fifth TBT, will be the No. 2 seed in the Syracuse region of the bracket, as announced Tuesday afternoon.

Armored Athlete general manager A.J. Mahar, a Bennington native, is excited heading into the tournament that kicks off on July 19.

"I'm happy where we fell at No. 2. I think the region is very talented," Mahar said. "Team Fancy is a lot better than they got credit for. Our first round matchup, Team Draddy, anytime you play an alumni team, they're going to be tough. It's an exciting time and the region is tough."

The team sees a lot of new faces this summer with only to returners from last year's quad that bowed out in the Super 16 round to Boeheim's Army in a 73-69 defeat.

Newcomers in the front court, include centers John Bryant and Michael Ojo and forwards JP Tokoto and Alex Young.

In the back court, Keith Hornsby, Egor Koulechov, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and John Roberson join the squad, along with Brian Litman, who was a booster in the past, but will suit up this year.

Rathan-Mayes, in particular, could play a crucial role for Armored Athlete at point guard, having had a very successful career at Florida State University. He ranks fourth in program history and scored more than 1,000 points in his Seminoles career. He's shown his defensive chops too, earning All-ACC defensive team honors in 2017. He has a quick-score ability, and in an ACC game against Miami during his college career, he scored 30 points in the final four minutes of the game.

Hornsby figures to be a big threat from deep range. The LSU product led the NBA G-League in three-point percentage with an impressive 48.5 percent mark.

Bryant has a local connection as his aunt and uncle live in Bennington and his uncle is the junior varsity girls basketball coach, under Mahar, who leads the varsity girls. Mahar believes Bryant will bring a strong offensive presence to the group.

Tokoto will bring a great presence on the defensive end.

"I really like the roster that we have," Mahar said. "It's just about bringing it all together and playing for one common goal."

Power forward Murphy Holloway and shooting guard Terrico White return from last tournament.

For the first time in Armored Athlete's history, it won't have a player from the original team in 2015.

"It's uncharted territory for Armored Athlete," Mahar said. "Murphy and Terrico were such an integral part of our success last year. They're two tough, gritty players that just want to win and don't need the ball in their hands, doing a lot of the little things. We're going to heavily rely on them to ease these new guys into what Armored Athlete is all about."

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Armored Athlete has a good mix of guys who have played on the biggest stages in college basketball in the ACC, SEC and Big 12, but they also have some mid-major guys around them.

Mahar thinks that mix will fit well for the group.

"I really like the mid-major guys we do have with John Bryant (Santa Clara) and Alex Young (IUPUI). They have a bit of a chip on their shoulder and are guys that are overlooked their whole career and now play at one the highest levels," Mahar said.

"I also think having these guys that have competed against the best players in the world in their time in college or as professionals is great. You need to have that type of athlete," Mahar said. "It's a perfect mix of the two that you need to field on your roster."

The 2019 tournament represents the second TBT to use the "Elam Ending" to decide the winner of games.

Designed by Mensa member and basketball super fan Dr. Nick Elam, the rule eliminates deliberate fouling at the end of games, ensures the final minutes are played at the same pace and flow as the rest of the game and guarantees every game ends on a made basket. Under the rule, at the first dead ball after the four minute mark in the fourth quarter, the game clock shuts off. A Target Score is set by adding eight points, up from seven last year, to the leading team's score. The first team to reach the Target Score wins.

Another change is that if there is a foul on the first dead ball after the four-minute mark, the player gets to take their two free throws before the eight points are added for the target score.

The purse for the winning team of TBT remains at $2 million, but there will be a money prize for the winning team of each region.

In year's past, there has been four regions, but that number grows to eight this year with eight teams in each region.

At each of the eight regional sites, 25 percent of ticket sales goes to the purse for that region and whichever team wins the region gets that money. To win the region, you have to win three games.

According to Mahar, the tournament is expecting the purse for the Syracuse region to be around $70,000 when all is said and done.

No. 2 Armored Athlete will play No. 7 Team Draddy in the first round of the tournament on July 26 at 3 p.m.

The presumed favorite in the region is No. 1 seed Boeheim's Army, which feature alumni of the storied Syracuse University men's basketball program, including former NBA players like Jordan Crawford and Hakim Warrick.

Overseas Elite has won the past four TBTs and looks for the five-peat this summer.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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