LEXINGTON, Ky. – The annual single-elimination, nationwide summer spectacle known as The Basketball Tournament is making its way to Lexington for the first time in the six-year history of the event, televised live on ESPN networks. Bluegrass Boys, composed entirely of former Kentucky Wildcats, will host seven other teams at Frederick Douglass High School on July 19-21.
TBT divides a 64-team field into eight regions for Rounds 1-3, with each region seeded 1-8. The winner of each regional competition will advance to Championship Week in Chicago on August 1-6, where the last team standing will claim a winner-take-all prize of $2 million. The champion of each regional will receive a cash prize equal to 25% of the ticket sales of that particular region.
Bluegrass Boys, organized by general manager Mark Krebs (2010), are coached by two-time NCAA champion Wayne Turner (1999). The team will be led on the court by Kentucky natives Derek Willis (2017) and Dominique Hawkins (2017), as well as former UK standouts Josh Harrellson (2011), Marcus Lee (2016), Ramon Harris (2010), Kevin Galloway (2009) and AJ Stewart (2009). Making their second TBT appearance, Bluegrass Boys will serve as the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Regional.
“Playing in front of the Big Blue Nation is one of the greatest feelings a player can experience,” said Turner. “The Lexington Regional has a strong field, but with this team and these fans, I like our chances.”
In addition to cutting down the nets in both 1996 and 1998, Turner appeared in three straight Final Fours during his time at Kentucky. Willis, Hawkins and Lee made back-to-back trips to the Final Four in 2014-15, while Harrellson helped the Cats end a 13-year Final Four drought in 2011. Krebs and Harris each reached the Elite Eight during Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s first season in 2010, while Galloway and Stewart ended their UK careers under former head coach Billy Gillispie.
The top-seeded team in Lexington will be Team Loyalty is Love, anchored by GM and former UK All-American DeMarcus Cousins (2010). The first-year team features former Wildcat Daniel Orton (2010), as well as former Baylor players Pierre Jackson, Quincy Miller and Isaiah Austin. Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette), Markel Brown (Oklahoma State) and Willie Reed (Saint Louis) round out the roster structured by the four-time NBA All-Star.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Lexington this summer to support my TBT squad, Team Loyalty is Love, as we look to bring home the championship,” Cousins said. “Kentucky fans have been so great to my family and I, and it’s always special coming back. TBT is the premier basketball event in the summertime, and I’m excited to be a part of it for the first time this year.”
The region’s final team with ties to the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the Kentucky Basketball Commission, coached by Lexington native and Charlotte Hornets point guard Shelvin Mack. The No. 4 seed KBC includes 2004 Kentucky Mr. Basketball honoree and former Tennessee All-American Chris Lofton, Eastern Kentucky all-time leading scorer Nick Mayo and one-time Western Kentucky star AJ Slaughter. Indiana native Matt Howard, who played alongside Mack during Butler’s back-to-back runner-up finishes in the NCAA Tournament, will also join KBC in its inaugural season.
The Lexington Regional is rounded out by No. 3 Fort Wayne Champs, No. 5 Peoria All-Stars, No. 6 Showtime, No. 7 D2 and No. 8 Hoopville Warriors. In total, 64 players with NBA experience will be competing at TBT. Bluegrass Boys are one of 23 teams composed of alumni from the same college, while Team Loyalty is Love, KBC and D2 are three of 21 squads making their TBT debut. Puma will serve as the official partner of TBT once again.
Lexington Regional tickets may be purchased immediately at TheTournament.com with options for both daily and weekend passes. With game times subject to change, the schedule of Rounds 1-3 was announced as such on Tuesday:
Game 1, Round 1: No. 4 KBC vs. No. 5 Peoria All-Stars (Friday, July 19 at 3 p.m.)
Game 2, Round 1: No. 1 Team Loyalty is Love vs. No. 8 Hoopville Warriors (Friday, July 19 at 5 p.m.)
Game 3, Round 1: No. 3 Fort Wayne Champs vs. No. 6 Showtime (Friday, July 19 at 7 p.m.)
Game 4, Round 1: No. 2 Bluegrass Boys vs. No. 7 D2 (Friday, July 19 at 9 p.m.)
Game 5, Round 2: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner (Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m.)
Game 6, Round 2: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner (Saturday, July 20 at 6 p.m.)
Game 7, Round 3: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner (Sunday, July 21 at 2 p.m.)