Abdul-Bassit looks to use TBT as springboard for next venture
Coming off wrist surgery, Anchorage’s Jalil Abdul-Bassit had plenty of motivation to work his way back into shape.
A chance to win his share of $1 million.
Abdul-Bassit has joined a University of Oregon alumni team that will compete for big money in The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team, single-eliminator with a $1 million winner-take-all grand prize.
“This is a great event with a lot of great players,” Abdul-Bassit said. “I think my showcasing my ability amongst great talent can only be a plus for me and my career going forward.”
The TBT is like a reunion tour that brings together former NBA players, college alumni and international stars in an open tournament that dates to 2014.
The field has been split into four regions – Illinois, West Virginia, Columbus and Wichita – and tips off this week. The top two teams from each of the four regionals advance to the quarterfinals July 31 in Dayton, Ohio. It’s also the host for the semifinals (Aug. 1) and final (Aug. 3).
The TBT title game will feature an Elam Ending, meaning that one player will hit a shot to win his team a million bucks.
It could be Abdul-Bassit.
The 28-year-old Alaskan has never played in the TBT but he’s used to lacing ‘em up for high stakes. He’s a veteran of the NBA G League and also played pro ball in Australia, Albania and Mexico. In 2017, he pumped in a career-high 43 points in Australia.
“This tournament means a lot to me being that I’m coming off a major wrist surgery just three months ago.” Abdul-Bassit said.
“The doctor told me it would take six months just to get back on the court. I wasn’t even able to shoot a basketball just two months ago, so it means the world to me just to be able to play the game I love again and it’s also on a national stage. It feels good to be back on this stage.”
Abdul-Bassit, of East High fame, played two seasons at Oregon and helped the Ducks reach the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and 2015.
The 6-foot-4 sharpshooter ranks No. 2 on Oregon’s all-time list for career 3-point percentage (.429).
“I think my game has done a complete 180 since Oregon,” Abdul-Bassit said. “I’ve worked restlessly on my skill development and gained a lot more confidence.”
He joins an Oregon squad – nicknamed ‘Always Us’ – that is participating in The Basketball Tournament for the first time. Always Us is a No. 4 seed and will face No. 13 Peoria All-Stars, making its fifth straight tournament appearance.
“I think being that we’re a new team the fourth is seed fair,” Abdul-Bassit said. “But I also know a lot of people are writing us off to lose early so I think we’ll surprise a lot of people.”
The TBT field expanded from 24 teams in 2020 to 64 in 2021. There have been as many has 97 teams in the past.
“The last few years our Oregon players have been thinking about putting a team together but a lot of our teammates are in the NBA or have been busy preparing for NBA ventures, so it was on hold for a while,” he said.
Abdul-Bassit is one of three Alaskans playing for a TBT team. The others are Anchorage’s Derrick Wilson and Ramon Harris.
“It’ll be fun to catch up with my longtime friend Derrick and my OG Ramon,” Abdul-Bassit said. “It should be fun to catch up with those guys.”
Wilson and the Golden Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the Illinois region and could face Abdul-Bassit’s Always Us team in the Sweet 16.
Wilson last year started for the Golden Eagles squad made up of Marquette University alumni that won the 2020 TBT championship.
In 2019, he was part of the Golden Eagles team that lost in the title game.
Wilson, of East High fame, played at Marquette from 2011 to 2015.
The 6-foot-1 point guard played professionally last season in Turkey, where he averaged 17.7 points and 4.6 assists in 27 games with Sigortam.
Wilson has also played in Denmark and Sweden. In 2019, he pumped in a career-high 35 points in Sweden. The 29-year-old will play next season in Hungary after signing with Zalakeramia, where he will play alongside former UAA star Suki Wiggs.
The 33-year-old Harris is playing with the Fort Wayne Champs, a No. 9 seed in the West Virginia region.
He played five seasons in the NBA G League between 2011 and 2016, including three-plus seasons for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
The 6-foot-7 forward helped Fort Wayne win the G League championship in 2014 and reach the Finals in 2015.
Harris, of West High fame, was the first Alaskan to score 1,000 points in the G League.
He’s also racked up pro experience in China, Germany and Greece. In 2011, he netted a career-high 48 points in China.
He last played in the 2019-2020 season for Rethymno Cretan of Greece, where he averaged 5.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19 games.