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Sullinger, Carmen's Crew looking for more as TBT tips off at Capital

By Zach Fleer, 07/18/19, 2:10PM EDT

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Jared Sullinger returns to the TBT in a new role as head coach of Carmen's Crew

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- You can't say Jared Sullinger wasn't built for this.

Returning to The Basketball Tournament with Ohio State's alumni group Carmen's Crew, Sullinger will fill a different role as the team's head coach this weekend in the opening round of games at Capital University.

The son of legendary Ohio high school basketball coach Satch Sullinger, Jared Sullinger is ready to embrace the challenge of leading a group of former teammates to what could be a two million dollar grand prize.

"I'm just comfortable with these guys honestly," Sullinger said of his teammates on Thursday. "Playing with these guys and seeing the floor from the sideline is totally different from being on the floor."

However, Sullinger said the continuity he has built with Carmen's Crew's core roster, which includes former teammates Aaron Craft, David Lighty, Jon Diebler, LaQuinton Ross and William Buford, will help him transition to the new role.

"We've been playing together for 10 years now," Sullinger said. "It won't be hard to know who to throw in, what combinations to work with, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Sullinger has as much experience as anyone in the tournament, learning from greats like Thad Matta, Brad Stevens, Doc Rivers and Dwane Casey over the course of his long career. Those experiences alone should help him lead a Carmen's Crew team that figures to be the favorite in the Columbus regional this weekend.

"Taking the format from [his former coaches], seeing what I did for all of those years and applying it over here is real simple," Sullinger said. "They're pros, they know what to do so at the end of the day put them in positions and after that, basketball reads itself."

Carmen's Crew has a bit of a different roster this time around, with Sullinger taking the summer off to help his pregnant wife, who is expecting twins in September. The former Boston Celtic leaves the team without much depth in the front court, however, this team figures to be one of the more versatile in the tournament. 

Craft, Lighty, Buford and Diebler will command things in the backcourt, while the new addition Ross could end up being the team's best player. At 6-foot-7, Ross is a versatile wing threat who will need to score it off the bounce and stretch the floor to help Carmen's Crew reach its full potential.

"Ross will most definitely be a strength due to his versatility," Sullinger said. "You can play him at the three, you can play him at the four. So we have a lot of small ball lineups, you know Dave Lighty can play the four as well." 

With as many versatile pieces as Carmen's Crew has, one player that Sullinger is really excited about is a longtime pro from right here in Columbus. Jeff Gibbs, a former Columbus East standout and national champion at Otterbein, gives Carmen's Crew a unique blend of rebounding, strength and defense.

"He's a huge addition just due to his ability to rebound," Sullinger said of Gibbs. "He's an ultimate rebounder, big-time defender and overseas he's won multiple defensive player of the year awards."

Despite all of its offensive potential, Sullinger said defense will be the key to help Carmen's Crew advance further than it has in the last two years and Gibbs could play a big role in that.

"Offensively we are fine, defensively that's the biggest priority," Sullinger said. "It's all about how many stops you get, so as long as you defend, we have a chance."

Rounding out the roster are a trio of front court players in Evan Ravenel (Ohio State), Leon Rodgers (Northern Illinois) and Gibbs (Otterbein). Guards Courtney Pigram (East Tennessee State) and Demetri McCamey (Illinois) complete the backcourt.

Carmen's Crew won't be the only team with an Ohio State flavor taking part in the action, as Big X, which includes former Buckeyes Jae'Sean Tate, CJ Jackson and Keyshawn Woods will look to knock off the hometown favorites. Big X also features former Whetstone standout Cam Vines, who currently plays professionally overseas. 

The two teams could match up on Saturday if both win Friday's quarterfinal matchups. Carmen's Crew will take on Illinois BC on Friday at 9 p.m. at Capital, while Big X will play the West Virginia Wildcats before that at 7 p.m.

Former Delaware Hayes standout Khalil Iverson will play for Kohl Blooded, a team of Wisconsin alums, which plays at 3 p.m. on Friday against Mid-American Unity. 

You can pick up your tickets for this weekend's games here. All games will be broadcasted on ESPN's family of networks, with the final two matchups taking place on ESPN2 on Friday. 

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