Bucs, Mocs joining forces for shot at $2 million

Joe Avento • Apr 12, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Question: When do East Tennessee State and Chattanooga basketball fans agree on anything?

Answer: When their former players are teaming up to try to win $2 million.

Four former ETSU basketball players will be joining forces with at least two former Chattanooga Mocs and a few other ex-Southern Conference stars on a team called the Southern Smokies with hopes of winning some big money. They’re entering The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team winner-take-all event with $2 million going to the winning team and its fans.

The games are scheduled to take place in July and August and will be televised on the ESPN platforms.

“These guys mutually respect each other’s games and respect each other’s accomplishments in the Southern Conference,” said Dillon Reppart, a former ETSU player serving as the team’s general manager.

So far, ETSU is represented by Isaac Banks, T.J. Cromer, Jalan McCloud and Devontavius Payne, all of whom play professionally overseas. Chattanooga’s Justin Tuoyo and Greg Pryor, the 2016 SoCon tournament MVP, are also on the roster.

Of course, some of the rivalries still have open wounds so some otherwise qualified players weren’t invited.

Western Carolina’s Carlos Dotson was not one of them. He was greeted with open arms.

When Dotson tweeted about the tournament during the SoCon tournament, Reppart reached out to the All-SoCon big man, who was excited to join the team.

“I’ve only heard good things from ETSU guys about Carlos,” Reppart said. “They say he’s just a goofball and always super respectful to the guys on the team. He’s got a good connection with bunch of them.

“I watched Carlos at the Southern Conference tournament. I could tell he’s just a load. He’s an animal.”

The team’s coaching staff consists of Bryan Forbes, who will serve as the head coach, and assistants Chris Forbes and Jermaine Long.

Bryan Forbes had served as a graduate assistant at ETSU under his uncle Steve Forbes and is now an assistant coach at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. Chris Forbes is Steve’s son and served as an ETSU grad assistant this season. Long is a former Bucs player.

Reppart’s role as GM is to “keep all the ducks in a row with TBT making sure we do everything right.’’ He also has the final call on who will fill out the roster.

“I wanted to start out with just an ETSU team only,” Reppart said. “I started reaching out to some coaches and one of them turned into a player. I got to talking to Chris Forbes and we decided to make it a Southern Conference team, not just ETSU.”

Reppart said he and Forbes had a list of four former ETSU players — Tevin Glass, Desonta Bradford, A.J. Merriweather and Cromer — and if they could get one they’d be able to build a team around him.

Cromer, the 2017 SoCon tournament MVP who plays professionally in Italy, was the only one to bite. He told Reppart he had become good friends with Tuoyo and got him signed up as well.

The 6-foot-10 Tuoyo, Chattanooga’s all-time leader in blocked shots, then said he could get Prior and things took off from there.

Recently, Furman’s Stephen Croone, a former SoCon player of the year, joined the fray.

The team has two more spots to fill and they have players targeted. They’re just waiting to hear back.

If accepted into the tournament, and they fully expect to be, the Smokies will play in the West Virginia Regional on July 24-26. Games will be played at the Charleston Coliseum.

The first two days’ games will be shown on ESPN3 with the final day on ESPN.

Eight regional winners from around the country will advance to the championship week, set for Aug. 6-11 in Dayton, Ohio. This is the seventh year for the tournament.

The winning team’s fan base — those registered for a particular team at TheTournament.com — will equally share 10% of the purse, or $200,000.

“I think it’s going to be a great tournament,” Reppart said. “We’re looking forward to going to West Virginia and see what we can do.”

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