Fort Wayne Champs is full of experience as this is their eighth time participating in the TBT.
Fort Wayne Champs returns for its eighth time in the tenth year of the TBT. This team has its returning star Tayler Persons, its leading scorer. Fort Wayne Champ’s second top scorer is Steph Hicks, who also has some TBT experience as he plays his fifth year. Last year’s team also had Jaren Lewis and Brandon Gilbeck. Lewis was the only other player to return who had minutes. Fort Wayne Champs held tryouts for its last spot before selecting Kaleb Vaughn. After a second-round knockout the previous year, 87-78 to Florida TNT, this team hopes for a better run this year. Fort Wayne Champs returns to Xavier and has a slight advantage as this team also boasts an 11-5 record.
Great opportunity for local hoopers. I’m coaching the Fort Wayne Champs again this year and we are looking for a bucket getter! Sign up and show me what you can do. We will be picking at least one player for our final roster from this tryout. pic.twitter.com/gjUyoB5TLD
— Rod (@RodWilmont) June 13, 2023
For more TBT team profiles, click here.
- Anthony Harris (Miami)
- Brandon Gilbeck (Western Illinois)
- Brandon Walters (Middle Tennessee State)
- Grayson Murphy (Belmont University)
- Jaren Lewis (Abilene Christian)
- Kaleb Vaughn (Lake Erie College)
- Marcus Lewis (Eastern Kentucky)
- Sadiel Rojas (Oklahoma Wesleyan University)
- Stanley Whittaker Jr. (Keiser University)
- Stephan Hicks (Cal State Northridge)
- Tajuan Agee (Iona)
- Tayler Persons (Northern Kentucky & Ball State)
- Garrett Martz (GM)
- Rod Wilmont (Head Coach)
- Kevin Bloom (Asst. Coach)
- Xavier, Ohio
Team MVP: Brandon Walters
With Tayler Persons getting much attention this year, Brandon Walters has a massive advantage. Standing at 6-foot-10, his size is a benefit. Walters is also a surprisingly solid 3-point shooter. Playing in Turkey last year, he shot 31% from 3-point range. While he doesn’t shoot it often, all Walters will need to do is knock down one or two. Stretching defenses, Walters averaged 20.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 steals in Turkey. He will be an asset on both ends of the floor. His length and ability to alter shots and defend will annoy other teams.
Walter is a beast on the boards, and his ability to put the ball back in on rebounds will be massive. He also has the skill of making space for himself and others. The midrange and 3-point game is challenging to cover. He has solid footwork, and his explosiveness and bounce will be a pain for other teams. Walters has a good feel and knows when to pass for a better shot.
Make-or-break Player: Tayler Persons
Tayler Persons dropped 23 points, hit the Elam Ender and then waived goodbye to the Cincy crowd😂👋
Was this the best TBT2022 celebration⁉️ pic.twitter.com/nuWGgZVWdY
— TBT (@thetournament) October 25, 2022
The definite star of the team will be an issue. Having had success the past two years, other groups will know the team and prepare for him. Persons must be creative with his shots and not get frustrated by shifting defenses. He will still need to be a facilitator for his team. Persons will have the opportunity with the incoming talent, but he shouldn’t have to force his game. If he can stay patient, he will have success. Persons is not a 3-point shooter, but he can shoot it and does so with confidence. His ability to move the ball and create shots is impressive.
Last year in Poland, Persons averaged 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 1.7 steals. Ball movement will be vital for the Fort Wayne Champs. If Persons can move the ball and keep defenses guessing, good luck beating the Fort Wayne Champs.
These teams know a thing or two about winning 😎 pic.twitter.com/mGxJEi5FKQ
— TBT (@thetournament) July 10, 2023
Fort Wayne Champs needs its newcomers to shake up the TBT. Stanley Whittaker played this year in Germany, averaging 18.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.4 steals. He also shoots 40.6% from 3-point range. Brandon Gilbeck returns to the team but did not seem to benefit the team last year. He’ll look to change that with the TBT format experience under his belt. He played this year in Taiwan, averaging 17.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, and 1.1 steals.
Tajuan Agee played in Germany and averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.0 steals. Another player from Germany, Jaren Lewis, averaged 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.1 steals. Lewis shot 36.7% from 3-point range. These will likely be the names audiences should see.
Fort Wayne Champs will face off against a fan favorite in the Bucketneers. After playing Cinderella two years ago, the Bucketneers have had back-to-back Sweet 16 finishes, first losing to Sideline Cancer in 2021 and then to Best Virginia 63-62. Fort Wayne Champs must show up against a team named after making buckets. The next game will be as challenging against either the Program for Autism or Team DRC. This whole part of the bracket is full of talent and returning teams. A tough road to make it to the championship, but as the saying goes, “iron sharpens iron.”