Armored Athlete to compete for $1 million on ESPN

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COLUMBUS, OHIO — The Basketball Tournament (TBT) announced via their selection show on Tuesday afternoon that Armored Athlete will be one of 24 teams battling it out for the $1 million winner-take-all prize.

The highly competitive tournament, typically consisting of 64 teams, has limited this years field to 24 because of the coronavirus. All games will be played between July 4-July 14 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. No fans will be in attendance, but all games will be aired on the ESPN network. There were 120 teams that registered for TBT 2020.

Armored Athlete is a 15 seed. They will face No. 18 Power of the Paw , a Clemson alumni team, in their first round match up. The two teams will battle it out on July 5.

AJ Mahar, a former Mount Anthony athlete and basketball coach, is Armored Athletes general manager. His job is to recruit players to join his team and compete for the million dollar prize. With five players with NBA ties on this years roster, including a former Boston Celtic, Mahar believes he has built his best team yet.

Coty Clarke spent part of the 2015-2016 season with the Celtics. Clarke signed multiple 10-day contracts with Boston, appearing in three games for the 17 time NBA champions. Clarke played college basketball at the University of Arkansas.

Mahar also got a commitment from another former Razorback, Courtney Fortson. The 5 foot 10 inch point guard spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets during the 2010-2011 season, appearing in 10 games. Fortson was the 2017-2018 Chinese Basketball Association Most Valuable Player after averaging 31.1 points and 12 assists per game.

Armored Athlete also boasts a former San Antonio Spurs draft pick, Cady Lalanne. The 6 foot 10 inch center was selected with the 55th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft after a stellar college career at the University of Massachusetts.

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The player with the most NBA experience on Armored Athlete is Dominique Jones. He was a first round pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, 25th overall, by the Memphis Grizzlies. Jones was then traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where he spent three seasons with the organization, appearing in a total of 80 games. Jones is a NBA champion, too. During his rookie campaign in 2010-2011, the Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

Keith Hornsby is also on Armored Athlete's 2020 roster. Hornsby signed with the Dallas Mavericks after not being selected in the 2016 NBA draft. During the 2018-2019 NBA G League season, Hornsby was the league leader in three point field goal percentage.

"This is as close to my personal dream team as I've ever had," Mahar said. The general manager said he has recruited several of these players for three or four years, and is excited to see how they play together.

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This years TBT has promise to be the most competitive since the event began in 2014. Many players with NBA ties have signed to teams, most notably Joe Johnson who spent 17 years in the NBA and was a seven time all-star. Johnson signed with four-time TBT champion Overseas Elite.

Many other players competing in this years event are former Division I college basketball players, and many currently play professionally in countries all around the world.

TBT is allowing 12 people per team to travel to Columbus. Teams are allowed to disperse those 12 spots to their choosing. According to Mahar, Armored Athlete has around 50 people traveling with the team on a normal year between players, coaching staff, boosters and family members.

Armored Athlete has carried 11 or more players on their roster in prior tournaments. With this years restrictions, they will have a 10 man roster. Mahar will also be traveling with the team, as well as their head coach.

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All participants will be staying at a hotel connected to the Greater Columbus Convention Center where they will be quarantined during their entire stay. Players and staff are only allowed to leave their hotel rooms to go to practice, which will be held at the convention center, and games.

Everyone, including staff, will be tested for the coronavirus on three separate occasions, according to Mahar. If a player tests positive, the team is disqualified and will be sent home.

Nationwide Arena, home to the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, has a capacity of 19,500 for basketball games. With no fans allowed during this years TBT, the venue will be virtually empty.

"To have nobody else in there besides the people participating and a couple people on staff, it's going to be pretty wild," said Mahar.

TBT will be the first nationally televised basketball game in the country in nearly four months. The last NBA game played before the season was suspended indefinitely occurred on March 11. Mahar is ready to be a part of bringing basketball back.

"It's exciting and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of it and experience it," said Mahar. "It's probably something that we're going to remember forever."


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