Jamboree Preview: Midwest


By: Patrick Ronan | @pk_ronan

Breaking Down the Jamboree Midwest

The Midwest features a pair of very interesting matchups between teams in similar situations. First, we’ll see Peoria All Stars take on Philly Dimes – two teams looking to take advantage of playing at home. Next, a pair of New York based teams invade the Midwest, as Reach 1 Teach 1 takes on Gotham Golden Knights to see who gets to take home bragging rights. Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s Midwest action.

Peoria All Stars vs. Philly Dimes – 10:45am EST WatchESPN

Our first game in the Midwest features two teams hoping to capitalize on playing at home. Philly Dimes gets home court advantage right away, with all of this weekend’s Jamboree games being played at Philadelphia University. Needing just two wins to solidify their spot in the TBT 2017 field, playing with a strong crowd behind them could be huge for Philly Dimes.

Peoria All Stars also have a chance to play two games at home. They have to travel more than 850 miles to Philadelphia, but if they can come out of the Midwest in the Jamboree they’ll open up TBT 2017 play at home on the campus of Bradley University.

When looking at the two rosters side-by-side, neither team jumps out at you as the clear-cut favorite. Both teams will bring strong professional experience. Five of Philly Dimes’ nine players have played professionally, while four of Peoria All Stars’ nine players have pro experience.

Neither team will have a distinct size advantage, as the Dimes tallest players measure 6’7” and 6’9”, while Peoria All Stars two tallest top out at 6’7” and 6’10”.

If the Dimes can make a run, there will most likely be a hometown hero involved. Five players are Philly natives (Denzel Jackson, Deshon Minnis, Derrick Rivera, Jamir Hanner and Rasheion Wright)

They should get strong contributions from a pair of Pennsylvania natives in Kevin Burwell and Kevin White. Burwell is a 5’11” point guard who played his college ball at Mississippi Valley State and has played in the FIBA Europe Cup. He’s a strong leader that can shoot the deep ball and plays strong defense.

White is more of a go-to scorer. The 6’3” shooting guard has played overseas in Brazil and was the league’s top scorer for Paulista Série A2 in 2015 (21.0 PPG).

The Peoria squad could be led by one of their hometown guys – center Dylan Sparkman. The 6’10” big man played collegiately at University of Illinois Springfield from 2011-15 and averaged 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 28.0 minutes as a senior. Since graduating, he’s played professionally in Spanish league Baloncesto Naron.

Keep an eye on 6’5” wing DeAaron Williams, who started his collegiate career at Wisconsin and has spent time professionally in Brazil. He hasn’t played professionally since 2009, but if Williams can find his “it’s like riding a bike” sweet spot, he could provide a serious scoring threat.

Reach 1 Teach 1 vs. Gotham Golden Knights – 12:30pm EST WatchESPN

The second Midwest game is a good old-fashioned battle for New York bragging rights between one team Reach 1 Teach 1 and Gotham Golden Knights.

Gotham GM John Taylor is no stranger to TBT. He was part of a team that was close to being accepted into TBT 2015 and joined forces with another team in danger of not making the field last year to secure a spot in TBT 2016 (lost in the first round of the West).

Taylor’s team has more players with professional experience (six) than any other team in the Midwest Jamboree region, but not a single player on his roster has TBT experience. I think that plays well for Gotham, as they’ll come into the Jamboree as a relative unknown in the TBT world. No tape from last year that R1T1 can scout. No box scores to determine the teams best scorers, passers and rebounders.

One thing we do know about Gotham Golden Knights is they’re banking on winning with small ball. Counting Taylor as GM/player, the Knights have an 11-man roster that features only one true big man. Listed as a power forward, 6’6” Brooklyn native Brian Dinnall’s highest level played is junior college. He’s prides himself on his rebounding and defense, so the Knights will have to look elsewhere for a leader on the offensive end.

Point guard Irin Stark and small forward Malik Jenkins could be potential offensive leaders. Stark has had a tremendous amount of success in the American Professional Basketball league (APBL) where he’s shown his ability to score.

Jenkins is a four-year professional who has played in Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Italy and in the D-League. At 6’7” he’s the tallest player on the team, but is listed as a small forward. He could be potential defensive nightmare for an undersized wing.

Reach 1 Teach 1 played in TBT 2015, where they reached the Super 16 with just five players on the roster. This year, they seem to have the “roster depth” thing figured out, with 10 players listed on the current roster.

The team consists of players with college and/or overseas experience – many of which attended smaller universities or colleges and are used to having to prove themselves on the court. Add in that New York basketball grit and you can count on R1T1 giving it 110% for a full 36 minutes.

Between 6’9” overseas pro William Thompson and 6’7” D-League pro Shaq Thomas, R1T1 should have no problems holding their own down low. Thomas was a four-year player at Cincinnati from 2012-16 and averaged more than 20 minutes per game his sophomore through senior seasons.