The top player for all 64 teams in the 2019 TBT

ByCarmine Carcieri ESPN logo
Thursday, July 11, 2019

It's only a matter of days before Overseas Elite begins its quest for a fifth straight title, while 23 college alumniteams join that squad on center stage in The Basketball Tournament.

The single-elimination bracket begins July 19 on the ESPN Family of Networks and concludes with the winner-take-all title game in Chicago Aug. 6 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN).

With every team, from the defending champs to We Are D3, ranked from 1 to 64, it's now time for us to identify the best player on each team. Who is capable of putting the team on his back, Kemba Walkerstyle? And what player could lead his team to an earth-shattering upset?

In an event that is filled with former NBA journeymen, massive ex-college names and overseas standouts, let's break down the best of the best before the beginning of the round of 64 (find the complete bracket here):

Columbus Regional

Aaron Craft, Carmen's Crew (Ohio State alumni)

Craft has been an elite on-ball defender dating back to his four-year career at Ohio State, as he was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. That toughness and stingy mentality helped him win a championship in the NBA's developmental league (now known as the G League) in 2015 and the French Leaders Cup (2018) while claiming an award for Pro A Best Defender.

Nigel Hayes, Kohl Blooded (Wisconsin alumni)

After a four-year career at Wisconsin that included a run to the national title game in 2015 and a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016, Hayes struggled to latch on in the NBA. That hasn't stopped him from having success overseas, though, as the forward shot a career-best 39.5% from 3 in Turkey and recently signed with EuroLeague club Zalgiris Kaunas.

Dyshawn Pierre, Red Scare (Dayton alumni)

Pierre was the third-leading scorer on Dayton's 2014 Elite Eight team and averaged 12.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in his senior season in Ohio. His big-game experience didn't end in college, as the versatile forward helped guide his Italian club, Dinamo Sassari, to the 2019 FIBA Europe Cup championship.

Paris Lee, Big X

Lee didn't receive much national recognition at Illinois State, but he was one of the top players in the Missouri Valley Conference, winning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year during his four-year career. Though the undersized point guard is a solid offensive player, he finished his senior season as the NCAA Division I active career steals leader and is more known for his defensive energy.

Jon Elmore, West Virginia Wildcats

It's all about scoring for Elmore, as he averaged more than 20 points per game in his final two seasons at Marshall and put on a show with 27 points in the Thundering Herd's 2018 NCAA tournament upset of Wichita State. The electric guard holds Conference USA's all-time record for points, 3-point field goals made and assists.

Branden Dawson, The Region

The former Michigan State forward earned Big Ten All-Defensive Team honors during his senior season and finished as the Spartans' all-time leader in blocked shots. After graduation, Dawson was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round.

Romeo Travis, Mid-American Unity

A former teammate of LeBron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School, Travis has carved out a 12-year professional career overseas. The ex-Akron Zip has won titles in Croatia, France and the Philippines, and most recently played in Thailand.

Jordan Price, Illinois BC

Price began his career at Auburn before transferring to La Salle, where he scored 19.2 points per game during his junior campaign. The bucket-getter put up 39 points in his first-ever TBT appearance last summer with Illinois BC, directing his team to an upset victory over Royce White and the Hilton Magic.

Greensboro Regional

Nick Calathes, Team Hines

Though teammate Mike James had a longer NBA career, Calathes' success in a plethora of different leagues speaks for itself. The guard was a McDonald's All-American and won MVPs and championships in the EuroCup and Greek League. Calathes also had a successful two-year college career with Florida that included averaging 17.2 points and 6.4 assists in his sophomore season.

P.J. Hairston, Team CP3

Though another former North Carolina star in Kennedy Meeks was in the mix for this honor, Hairston has the scoring chops and professional background to be Team CP3's alpha. Hairston hasn't played professionally since his stint in 2016-17 with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, but he was selected in the first round by the Charlotte Hornets in 2014 and averaged nearly 15 points in his final collegiate season with the Heels.

Gabe DeVoe, Power of the Paw (Clemson alumni)

DeVoe steadily improved throughout his college career, as he averaged 14.2 points in his senior season in 2017-18 and helped lead Clemson to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997.

Sean Barnette, Primetime Players

The former Wingate University forward has played all across the globe, including stints in four different countries and two seasons in the G League.

Eric Griffin, Florida TNT

Known for his elite athleticism and scoring ability, Griffin made a name for himself after a strong 2014 summer league that resulted in a contract with the Dallas Mavericks. The Campbell product was later waived, but played 49 games in the G League, where he averaged 19 points and was named a 2015 league all-star.

Cady Lalanne, Team 23

The former UMass big man was selected by the Spurs in the second round back in 2015 before earning a G League All-Star spot a year later. Lalanne played in Spain's top division in 2018 and signed a deal this year in Puerto Rico with Piratas de Quebradillas.

Devon Baulkman, Tampa 20/20

Baulkman started 32 games as a senior at Tennessee in 2015-16, averaging the fourth-most points on the roster. In addition to a solid college career, he played 71 games the past two seasons with the Westchester Knicks of the G League.

Cat Barber, Boo Williams

The lightning-quick former North Carolina State guard brings his transition-scoring abilities and playmaking skills to TBT. Barber was a three-year starter for the Wolfpack, earning first-team All-ACC honors while averaging an impressive 24 points per game in his final season.

Lexington Regional

Pierre Jackson, Loyalty Is Love

Isaiah Austin may be the most intriguing player on Loyalty Is Love, but Pierre Jackson is the team's biggest star. The former Baylor guard averaged a ridiculous 39.8 points, 9.3 assists and six rebounds for the CBA's Beijing Dragons last season. Add in two G League All-Star appearances, and Jackson is a superstar in the making this summer.

Josh Harrellson, The Bluegrass Boys (Kentucky alumni)

Harrellson never averaged more than 7.6 points during his career at Kentucky; however, the forward was a fan favorite and earned a role on the program's 2011 Final Four squad. The 6-foot-10 big man was drafted in the second round and played 75 NBA games with the Knicks, Heat and Pistons.

Travis Leslie, Fort Wayne Champs

After a strong career at Georgia, Leslie was able to catch on in the G League and overseas after failing to stick with the Clippers as a second-round draft pick. The guard was the G League All-Star Game MVP in 2013 and the Baltic League MVP in 2014 before being selected as a Lithuanian League All-Star twice.

Chris Lofton, Team KBC

Team KBC's biggest star was Mr. Basketball in Kentucky in 2004, a three-time First Team All-SEC selection and the SEC Player of the Year in 2007. Lofton, a former Tennessee guard, has played abroad since, including his most recent stop in Korea with the Seoul SK Knights.

Michael Bryson, Peoria All-Stars

Bryson was a four-year talent at UC Santa Barbara, where he earned two selections on the All-Big West first team and became the program's all-time leader in 3-pointers made. He currently plays for the Delaware Blue Coats in the G League.

Charles Mann, Showtime

The former Georgia guard averaged double figures in points in the final three seasons of his collegiate career and had his best showing during his sophomore campaign (13.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists).

Todd Withers, D2

Withers played his college ball at Queens University in Charlotte, where he scored 1,600 career points and was a member of the 2018 NABC NCAA Division II All-America Team. In his first season with the Grand Rapids Drive of the G League, Withers averaged 6.9 points and 5.6 rebounds.

DeAndre Thomas, Hoopville Warriors

After spending his collegiate career at three different schools (Chipola College, Indiana and Robert Morris), Thomas has spent five of his past six professional seasons in Canada. Thomas currently plays for the Albany Patroons and previously spent time with the London Lightning and Windsor Express.

Memphis Regional

Omar Samhan, Gael Force (Saint Mary's alumni)

Calvin Hermanson is the sharpshooter, but Samhan is the best player on Gael Force. The big man's numbers increased throughout his four years in Moraga, concluding with a monster senior season (21.3 points, 10.9 rebounds). Samhan has played professionally in Belgium, Poland, Japan and Mexico, among other countries.

Adonis Thomas, Bluff City (Memphis alumni)

Thomas never really latched on in the NBA after going undrafted in 2013, but the 6-foot-6 forward was named third-team All-Conference USA in 2013 and was an elite G League player in 2015. Thomas, who currently plays overseas with Medi Bayreuth, averaged 18.5 points in TBT last summer with Team Memphis State.

Ronnie Brewer, Team Arkansas (Arkansas alumni)

On a roster that features Michael Qualls, Moses Kingsley and Rotnei Clarke, Brewer stands out above the rest for his lengthy NBA career. The forward hasn't played professionally since 2016 with the Santa Cruz Warriors, but spent eight years in the NBA with six different organizations.

Semaj Christon, Broad Street Brawlers

Christon was a highly touted NBA prospect during his two seasons at Xavier. The flashy point guard averaged 16.2 points and 4.4 assists with the Musketeers before being selected by the Heat in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft. After struggling to put up consistent minutes in the league, Christon played with the Guangzhou Long-Lions, where he recorded a career-high 45 points in a game in December 2017.

Langston Hall, Southern Gentlemen

Remember when No. 15 seed Mercer shocked No. 2 Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament back in 2014? Hall sure does -- the 6-foot-4 guard was a senior on that Mercer squad. Hall's success went beyond that one game, though, as he was named 2014 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and was the Lou Henson Award winner, garnering the award given to the most outstanding mid-major player.

Bernard King, Louisiana United

King may be one of TBT's oldest players (he'll turn 38 on July 24), but he could also be considered one of the most accomplished. The 6-5 guard, who graduated from Texas A&M in 2003, was the Big 12's all-time leader in points scored and led the Aggies in scoring and assists in each of his four seasons. King has carved out a 15-year career overseas, most notably in France's LNB Pro B league.

Renaldo Balkman, Team Everyday

The ex-New York Knicks forward has 229 NBA games to his name and represented Puerto Rico on the national stage, playing in tournaments such as the Pan American Games and FIBA AmeriCup. Balkman never received a taste of the NCAA tournament, but he was the 2006 NIT MVP for South Carolina.

Jaylen Barford, Jackson TN UnderDawgs

Barford is one of the most intriguing players in this tournament because of his ability as a pure bucket-getter. The former Arkansas guard averaged 12.8 points in his senior season before showing all 30 NBA teams what they passed on by averaging 16.5 points in the G League.

Wichita Regional

Jamil Wilson, Golden Eagles (Marquette alumni)

Wilson has been successful at every stop of his basketball career. The forward was Marquette's second-leading scorer in 2013-14, impressed during his two-way contract with the Clippers and guided the Golden Eagles to the TBT semifinals last summer. Dwight Buycks and Andrew Rowsey have the pure scoring chops, but Wilson is a matchup nightmare that no opponent wants to face.

Toure' Murry, AfterShocks (Wichita State alumni)

Murry was never a standout in the NBA, but he played 56 games with three different organizations, most notably with the Knicks. He gained attention by lighting up the MVC with three 20-point games while averaging just over 12 points during his final season at Wichita State.

Perry Ellis, Self Made (Kansas alumni)

No, Ellis is not still on the Kansas roster. Instead, he's taking his talents to TBT, where he will show off his ability to stretch the floor and bruise in the post. The forward, who could be considered one of the most accomplished Jayhawks of all time, started 109 of his 144 career games and had a huge senior season that consisted of first-team All-Big 12 and second-team All-America selections.

Marcus Hall, Team Colorado (Colorado alumni)

Hall has already proved himself on the TBT level, as he dropped 28.3 points per game back in 2017 while leading Team Colorado to the Super 16. Now a member of the Lebanese Basketball League, the 6-foot-1 guard had a successful career with the Buffaloes, averaging 14 points in his senior season.

Marcus Foster, Purple & Black (Kansas State alumni)

Foster spent two seasons at Kansas State before transferring to Creighton to play under head coach Greg McDermott. The 2,000-point scorer earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in his final season with the Wildcats and was a member of the All-Big East first team in both of his seasons in Omaha.

Marcus Keene, Sideline Cancer

Though Keene might fly under the radar because of how many dynamic scorers are featured in the Wichita region, the former Central Michigan product is capable of carrying Sideline Cancer to a first-round upset. In his lone season with the Chippewas, Keene became the first Division I player in 20 years to average 30 points per game.

Peter Jok, Iowa United

Jok is another top-notch scorer. He spent four years with Iowa before transitioning to the G League. The guard averaged nearly 20 points during his senior campaign and showed off his scoring chops in his first game of the 2018-19 G League season by recording a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) for the Northern Arizona Suns.

Rashard Odomes, Fort Hood Wounded Warriors

Odomes, who graduated from Oklahoma following the 2018-19 season, started 15 of 34 games as a senior. He averaged 6.9 points and 2.5 rebounds, helping Lon Kruger's unit reach the Big Dance without college hoops superstar Trae Young.

Syracuse Regional

Chris McCullough, Boeheim's Army (Syracuse alumni)

On a team that features ex-NBA veterans Hakim Warrick and Jordan Crawford and ultra-competitive guard Eric Devendorf, the former first-round pick stands out above the rest. The forward's talent didn't shine through in The Association, but he averaged 15.7 points in three games in China and put up 16.1 points per game with the Long Island Nets back in 2016-17. With his ability to shoot from the outside and use his athleticism in the paint, McCullough could be a breakout performer this summer.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Armored Athlete

With an ACC All-Defensive Team on his résumé, scoring instincts on his side and playmaking abilities in his arsenal, Rathan-Mayes has the complete game needed to lead Armored Athlete. The former Florida State guard averaged double figures throughout his three-year college career before transitioning abroad.

Jason Thompson, Team Brotherly Love

Thompson will be the player who makes Team Brotherly Love tick. The 12th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft spent nine seasons in the league -- seven of them with the Kings -- before transitioning to a career overseas for the past three years.

D'Angelo Harrison, Team Fancy

One of the top scorers in the history of St. John's, Harrison brings swagger after averaging 22.5 points in the 2017 edition of the TBT and 11 points last year. The Team Fancy guard was a first-team All-Big East member in 2014 and 2015, and owns the St. John's program record for career 3-pointers made.

Rickey McGill, GaelNation (Iona alumni)

McGill was the eighth-leading scorer in the MAAC during his senior season at Iona, averaging 15.8 points per game. The guard will lead GaelNation in the Syracuse region as they try to pull an upset over Team Fancy.

Corey Sanders, Playing for Jimmy V

After averaging 26.3 points in Rutgers' Big Ten tournament run in 2018, hoop mixtape legend Sanders declared for the professional ranks, capitalizing on a monster performance and a big senior season (24.7 points per game). The point guard never found a home in the NBA, but currently plays for Mega Basket Georgia overseas.

George Beamon, Team Draddy (Manhattan alumni)

Beamon nearly led Manhattan to a stunning upset over Louisville in the first round of the NCAA tournament and averaged 18.8 points in his senior season. Add in first-team All-MAAC and MAAC Tournament MVP honors, and Beamon is capable of carrying Team Draddy to what could be one of the biggest upsets of the opening round.

Georgio Milligan, We Are D3

The 28-year-old guard had an impressive run in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers while playing for the Virgin Islands national team. Dueling against international powers like Canada and Brazil, Milligan averaged 18.2 points.

Richmond Regional

D.J. Kennedy, Overseas Elite

Without Errick McCollum and Kyle Fogg, Kennedy will have to shoulder an even bigger load if Overseas Elite wants to win its fifth straight TBT title. The two-time tournament MVP had a four-year career at St. John's and currently plays overseas, but has resurfaced thanks to his profound impact on TBT and Overseas Elite.

JeQuan Lewis, Ram Nation (VCU alumni)

The 6-foot-1 Lewis may not be the biggest or most athletic player, but he averaged 15.2 points in his senior season at VCU and was an elite defender and a consistent distributor on offense. The lead guard finished his college career with the sixth-most assists in school history.

Will Thomas, The Green Machine (George Mason alumni)

Thomas is best known for helping guide George Mason on one of the greatest Cinderella runs in NCAA tournament history back in 2006. But his impact went beyond that five-game stretch, as he graduated with the eighth-most points and third-most rebounds in program history.

Kevin Jones, Best Virginia (West Virginia alumni)

Jones was a force in his senior season at West Virginia, averaging 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds while earning second-team All-America honors. He went undrafted in 2012 before earning a contract with the Cavaliers following a three-game G League stint in which he averaged 27.0 points and 13.7 rebounds per game.

Trey Freeman, Seven City Royalty (Old Dominion alumni)

From Big South Freshman of the Year with Campbell to 2,000-point scorer at Old Dominion, Freeman was an elite mid-major college player. The newcomer to Seven City Royalty's roster will bring instant credibility from the perimeter.

T.J. Cline, The Web (Richmond alumni)

Cline, a matchup nightmare because of his ability to step out and shoot from the perimeter, comes into TBT as an alpha who could help The Web pull off a first-round upset. Cline earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2017 and is the son of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman.

Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, Team DRC

Though he never had a football career like team booster Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Smith was a dual-threat quarterback growing up, earning his nickname. Transitioning to the hardwood, the Louisiana Tech product was named Conference USA Player of the Year in 2015 and finished his career as the program's career leader in assists and steals.

K.J. Maura, Hilltop Dawgs (UMBC alumni)

Can Maura help quarterback UMBC to another epic first-round upset? The 5-8 point guard was a critical piece to the Retrievers' victory over Virginia in 2018 as he dropped 10 points, including two 3-pointers, and helped control the pace in the second half.

Salt Lake City Regional

James Michael McAdoo, Eberlein Drive

Former NBA journeyman Donald Sloan andJerome Randle,one of the top scorers in TBT last year, could've easily earned the crown as Eberlein Drive's biggest star. However, the team that remains the biggest threat to Overseas Elite still revolves around McAdoo. The 6-9 forward knows what it takes to win titles, as he was a member of the Warriors for three seasons and won a championship in the G League in 2015.

Austin Daye, Team Challenge ALS

McAdoo isn't the only former NBA veteran who has experienced an NBA championship. Daye also helped capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2014 as a member of the Spurs. The forward was the top scorer in Italy's Serie A in 2016, won a championship and finals MVP trophy in the same league in 2019 and was a member of the WCC All-Freshman team back in 2008 as a member of Gonzaga.

Rob Gray Jr., Team Fredette

Without Jimmer Fredette and Jack Cooley on the roster, Team Fredette needs the former Houston guard to find his scoring rhythm. If he has any games like he did in the Cougars' NCAA tournament victory over San Diego State in 2018 (career-high 39 points), then this squad might be in good position to hold off the underrated CitiTeam Blazers.

Jordan Adams, Sons of Westwood (UCLA alumni)

Adams was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft after showing his potential for two years in Westwood. After spending two seasons out of basketball, the guard joined TBT last summer and averaged the second-most points in the tournament (22.3 PPG).

Casper Ware, L.A. Cheaters

Ware had a terrific college career with Long Beach State, as he led the program to the NCAA tournament as a senior and captured Big West Player of the Year honors twice. The guard has been an even better pro, though, winning titles in Italy, France and Germany while earning three NBL first-team nods.

Jordan Hamilton, CitiTeam Blazers

As a first-round pick in 2011, Hamilton brings experience and scoring to the CitiTeam Blazers. Hamilton, a highly touted prospect out of Texas, teams up with former UConn big man Jeff Adrien as the Blazers try to knock off Team Fredette.

Spencer Butterfield, Utah Stallions

Butterfield helped Nanterre 92 win the French Cup and the FIBA Europe Cup in 2017 while capturing a Pro A all-star berth. The Utah State product didn't play basketball last season due to a foot injury, but will return to the TBT stage this summer.

Ronnie Price, Team Utah

Price was a star at Utah Valley before spending 11 seasons in the NBA with six different organizations. The former guard now owns a job as a scout in the Suns' front office, but will look to guide the younger guys through their TBT journey.