On July 24, 12 former Bobcats are donning the green and white once again.
However, there’s a catch. The team isn’t Ohio itself, it will be Ohio 1804.
Ohio 1804 is a basketball team composed primarily of Ohio alumni that over the past few months has planned to make a run in The Basketball Tournament this year.
The Basketball Tournament is an aptly-titled, open-application 64-team basketball tournament launched in 2014 by Zach Lowe. The grand prize for the winning team is $1 million. The tournament has picked up traction in the last few years because of its unique ruleset.
The tournament uses a modified version of NCAA men’s basketball’s rules, and its biggest draw is the “Elam Ending,” where the clock is turned off in the closing minutes of the game and teams play to a target score. The Elam Ending prevents overtime and has been used in the tournament since 2017.
Many of the participatory teams are based around alumni for certain schools, but a few scattered teams have more broad themes. Certain non-alumni teams include “Autism Army,” playing on behalf of the nonprofit organization Life’s WORC, and *“The Nerd Team” is stocked with “players from some of the top academic institutions who value the academic rigor while excelling on the court and in the community.”
Ohio 1804 was the brainchild of Kenny Brown, an Ohio alumnus and the alumni team’s current general manager. Brown served as an assistant on Ohio’s men’s basketball team in 2010 as a video coordinator, and he has bounced around the country working as an assistant for schools like Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech.
Brown had been aware of the tournament since its formation and was always keen on wanting to put an Ohio alumni team in the bracket. After Ohio won the Mid-American Conference Tournament in mid-March, Brown figured there was no time like the present to set his plans into action.
“There was just so much Bobcat passion right then,” Brown said. “I was striking while the iron was hot. I made the social medias right there, I contacted the tournament directors and said ‘We’re putting a team together.’ The fact that they won (the MAC Championship) and won an NCAA Tournament game definitely pushed the envelope a little bit.”
Brown had to enter a lengthy selection and vetting process, which the organizers of the tournament have in place to assure the applicant team is well-structured enough to ensure it can fully participate.
The process culminated in a selection show in late June where Ohio was selected as the 14-seed in the Columbus region. Their first-round game will be against Xavier’s alumni team on July 24.
Now that the bracket has been set, Ohio 1804 will be playing in their ideal venue — Columbus. Many of the players live or have family near Columbus, and this has allowed the team to keep individual travel costs low.
But the biggest problem stems not just from cost, but also scheduling. Several of the players that had expressed interest in playing may not be able to attend due to conflicts with their current jobs.
Stevie Taylor was still on the fence back in June. He’s an assistant coach at Langston University in Oklahoma, and his schedule could clash with the tournament. He isn't worried about the travel to Columbus; he hails from Gahanna. He worries he may have to skip out in order to attend recruiting events.
“I want to play and do all that, but at the end of the day I’ve got a job to do,” Taylor said. “But Lord willingly and you know if I’m given the opportunity I’ll definitely be in Columbus.”
Taylor is still on the fence a few days before Ohio tips off, but Brown is holding out hope for a last minute miracle. Taylor is still listed on the roster on the team’s web page as of Thursday.
But for those who have been able to make it down, the preparation has been a nice call back to their days playing for Ohio.
Jaaron Simmons, who played for the Bobcats from 2015-17 and is Ohio 1804’s head coach this year, says the meetings this summer have been focused on just enjoying the tournament itself. The end game is to win, but Simmons believes that shouldn’t take away from enjoying the chance to represent the Bobcats again.
“I’m looking at this opportunity to go out there with some guys that I know from Ohio University and some guys that I call my brothers, and just go out there, have some fun and try to win,” Simmons said.
Now that most of the team has arrived in Columbus, in-team practices have finally begun. Before the tournament began, players were forced to work out by themselves and only heard from their teammates via a group chat or Zoom call. But the clock is running down until the Bobcats take the floor again.