Nikki Teasley shows TBT is open to anyone

 

What makes The Basketball Tournament unique is that it is open to any and all.

As long as you have game, you can play. And in the case of Nikki Teasley, her basketball resume more than qualified her for the winner-take-all, single-elimination event.

Teasley played her college ball at North Carolina before being selected fifth overall in the 2002 WNBA Draft. During her professional career Teasley was a two-time WNBA All-Star and won a WNBA Championship with the Los Angeles Sparks. In 2014, the 6-foot point guard became the first female to play in TBT, serving as GM/player for Teasley’s All-Stars.

“If you ask any female athlete, especially one who has played in the WNBA, we’re not afraid of the men. I think we’ve proven we can play this game as well,” Teasley said.

Teasley’s role in The Basketball Tournament wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her cousin, Jason Benson.

Benson, a former Division II shooting guard at Mansfield University, had heard about TBT through a friend. After first agreeing to play on his friend’s team, Benson soon realized his team wouldn’t get enough votes to get in to The Basketball Tournament.  Benson made the decision to jump ship and reached out to his cousin, to gauge her interest in playing for a new team.

“I knew she had a big fan base and I knew we needed votes to get in so I figured we could use her pull to get us a big fan base [or] get the at-large bid, as well,” Benson said.

Teasley’s All-Stars got into the field, but drew a difficult first round matchup against Team ROBY, a roster made up of Villanova alumni, four of whom played on the 2009 Final Four team.

Scottie Reynolds, a former AP first team All-American, Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yaou, who had all continued their careers overseas, joined Dwayne Anderson, who had also played professionally in Europe and had recently moved on to coaching as an assistant at Penn State.

Behind a monstrous scoring effort by Pena, who recorded a tournament record 51 points, Team ROBY defeated Teasley’s All-Stars, but not before Nikki Teasley made TBT history.

Playing 13 minutes, the mother of two scored three points on 1-of-2 shooting and recorded an assist.

“The players are taller, much bigger, much more athletic, so I just had to be smarter,” Teasley said after the game.

While her stay in TBT was short-lived, it was worth it to prove her playing days weren’t behind her.

“She could definitely hold her own,” Teasley’s All-Stars forward Chaz McCrommon said. “She was the floor general out there. She directed us. She got us into plays. She ran the show.”

Added Teasley: “I got a great group of guys here. I try to treat people with the respect that I want back and I think it’s been a mutual feeling between all of us. They have a high-level of respect for me and in return I have a high-level of respect for them.

“Overall, it was a great experience. I enjoyed it and I’ll take these guys over anybody, everyday.”

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