For Team 23, revenge is a race against the clock

 

By: Ben Swanson | @bj_swanny


"It's become something of an obsession for me, to get back there and finish what I need to do." - Michael Illiano

Overseas Elite’s success over the past three years has been well documented. Three titles, a perfect 19-0 record, and $5 million in winnings speak for itself, and has shaped TBT as a whole.

But, what if a wrench had been thrown in the machine early? What would TBT look like now? That question is frequently on the mind of Team 23 GM Michael Illiano.

“I just feel like, somehow, we played a role in where they [are] at today, like we’re responsible,” said Illiano, whose Team 23 squad lost 67-65 to Overseas Elite in the 2015 championship game. “That set their wheels in motion and now they’ve grown as TBT has grown.

Overseas Elite bracket (2)

“I can’t describe the pain of losing in the championship in such a close fashion,” Illiano adds. “It’s become something of an obsession for me, to get back there and finish what I need to do.”

As Overseas Elite rattled off two more championships and piled on more high-level talent since 2015, Team 23 has failed to advance past the Super 16.

“I don’t want to say that we were left holding the apple cart, but we’ve definitely been left behind,” said Illiano. “In a way, we have a different mentality now, where it almost feels like year one again.”

The refreshed mindset will still have to compete with the self-appointed mounting pressure on Illiano and his current roster to make one final run. While he’s retained many of the key pieces from the 2015 runner-up team, the careers of several may be drawing to a close, including Davin White, who Illiano calls the engine of the team.

Davin White

“It begins and ends with Davin White for us, it always has, and at 36, he can still move, compete, and provide that winning experience,” said Illiano. “Then again, at 36, we’ve talked about this maybe being his last year, so this possibly could be his last shot.”

Illiano said the plan is for White to remain with the team as a coach when that time comes, but with others like David Bell, 37, and Larry Owens, 35 (and returning from a knee injury that kept him from playing in 2016), the clock may be ticking.

“It sounds like a cliché, but there’s no one who wants this more than we do,” said Illiano. “I don’t even care about the money, it means nothing, this is just something that we have to do, that I have to accomplish.”

 

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