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Ain’t No Half-Steppin’

Scoonie Penn and other former Bucks take the court once more at TBT

You might think that this TBT Tournament is something like an extended all star game where former college greats go on to play out the string. You’d be wrong. The Basketball Tournament is in its fifth year, and is billed as the most intense basketball competition in the world. Two million dollars in prize money waits at the end, and the winner takes it all.

It took a while for things to come together here in Columbus, but last year, Team Scarlet and Gray was able to round out a proper team.

This year’s roster  features the likes of backcourt heroes David Lighty, Jon Diebler, William Buford, and Aaron Craft.  Dallas Lauderdale, Jared Sullinger, and Byron Mullens bring some beef to the frontcourt.  van Turner will bring his expertise to the bench as a coach along with Scoonie Penn who also serves as the GM.

Last year, the team fell short, but Scoonie anticipates a stronger showing in 2018.

“This is a very unselfish team,” he said. “There’s a lot of mutual respect here, everybody contributes.  We win and lose as a team.”

The obvious question is one most guys in Scoonie’s position would dance around for fear of offending somebody, but Scoonie’s not afraid to take his shot on or off the court. Of this Buckeye Dream Team before him, who would he like to take back to 1999?

“Jared Sullinger,” he says without hesitation. “He’s got that nice wide body, and knows how to set a screen. I’d have gotten so many open shots with him on the court.”

Perhaps that candor is why he commands so much respect. Players from every generation like him. The older guys like Clark Kellogg and Ronnie Stokes embrace him as one of the all time Buckeyes, and the younger guys see him as a mentor—someone who gets it. It means a lot to him to be held in such high esteem by the people in Columbus. The undersized guard won the heart of Buckeye Nation with his tenacity on the court, and his humility off of it.

“I love Columbus and central Ohio,” he said. “They embraced me the minute I arrived on campus and I embraced them right back. I got involved in the community, and that relationship just grew, but that’s how I am. I’ve always been a people person.”

Scoonie played pro ball in Europe for 11 years, and last year he was hired as the Director of Player Development by new head coach Chris Holtmann. It was heralded by everybody who covers the program as a smart hire, but still surprising as Holtmann and Penn had no prior relationship.

It was a decision based purely on respect—a respect that goes both ways.

Holtmann, you see, wants players who are like Scoonie. He wants them to embrace the community, and be good citizens. Scoonie believes Holtmann was the right hire at the right time for the Buckeyes. Like the coaches before him, he demands excellence on the court, but wants his players to excel off of it as well.

“One day that basketball stops bouncing—and all you have are those relationships you’ve built.”

These days, Scoonie’s a suburban dad with a wife and four kids. His son is a top basketball prospect and is considering his options for the future. Coincidentally, so is Scoonie. As much as he loves Columbus, and his role with the basketball program at Ohio State, his journey has only just begun. “I want to coach,” he said.

This Tournament, he hopes, will serve as a catapult to that next level. That’s why it’s so important for people to understand what TBT is all about.

“This is no rinky-dink, roll the ball out and have some fun kind of deal,” Scoonie said. “TBT is very serious. These guys feel like they have something to prove, and they are playing at a high level of intensity.”

After all these years, it’s still hard not to love Scoonie Penn. He has a passion for the game, and for life itself that is infectious. He’s an open book who speaks from the heart, and that’s something players and assistant coaches will respond to when he gets his shot.

The Roster: Scarlet & Gray (and a Few Others)

GM: Scoonie Penn

Head Coach: Evan Turner

William Buford (2008-2012)

David Lighty (2006-2011)

Leon Rodgers (Northern Illinois 1998-2002

Dallas Lauderdale (2007-2011)

Jon Diebler (2007-2011)

Aaron Craft (2010-2014)

Byron Mullens (2008)

Evan Ravenel (2011-2013)

Jared Sullinger (2010-2012

Taylor Battle (Penn State, 2007-2011)

The TBT Midwest Regionals Will be held at Capital University’s Capital Center July 20-22. For more, visit thetournament.com.

 

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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