Why former Iowa, Iowa State, UNI and Drake stars are teaming up this summer

CLOSE

Drake’s head coach gives an update on Nick Norton’s appeal to the NCAA for another season.
Matthew Bain, mbain@dmreg.com

Nicholas Baer took a brief break from basketball after Iowa’s season ended against Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Now, for about the past month, the soon-to-be Hawkeye graduate has been back in the gym, getting ready to pursue a professional basketball career overseas. He has signed with an agent and is set to play at a July camp in Las Vegas, where he’ll perform in front of overseas scouts and, potentially, begin fielding contract offers.

Oh, and one other thing: Baer will also play for a chance at $2 million this summer.

He and Peter Jok are joining forces with Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Drake alumni on Iowa United, a team competing in The Basketball Tournament — a 64-team, single-elimination tournament with a winner-take-all prize of $2 million.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to get a chance to play together,” Baer said. “We’re looking to make a run.”

The tournament takes place throughout late July and early August. ESPN broadcasts all of the games. It started in 2014 as a 32-team field with a $500,000 grand prize. 

Baer and Jok represent the Hawkeyes on Iowa United; Tyrus McGee and Marcus Fizer represent the Cyclones; Reed Timmer, Nick McGlynn and Josh Young represent the Bulldogs; Wes Washpun represents the Panthers; and Urbandale native Matt Tiby, who played at Milwaukee, is also on the team.

Former Cyclone Jake Sullivan is the head coach.

“There’s gonna be a lot of competitive banter,” laughed Fizer, 40, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. “I’m looking forward to it. Just interacting with the younger guys. I’ve become a fan, watching them in the years since I’ve been out of school.”

Iowa United isn’t the first Iowa-based squad to compete in the tournament. For the past two years, Fizer coached Hilton Magic Legends, made up of Iowa State alumni. Last year didn’t go so well for that group, though. After entering the tournament as one of the favorites, they were trounced by 29 points in the first round. 

Iowa United general manager Matt Crawford helped assemble that Hilton Magic Legends team and he watched last year’s one-and-done blowout in person.

He said the idea for Iowa United hatched right then and there.

“I probably had a legal pad filled up (with ideas) before that game even ended,” said Crawford, who lives in West Des Moines. “Since then, we’ve just been plugging away at all this stuff. It’s been a long road to get here.”

Crawford’s first priorities were Jok and McGee. Once those two signed on, he said it wasn’t too hard to get others on board and fill the roster.

In terms of TBT eligibility, the main rule is you can’t currently be in the NBA. Former stars from the league have played, such as Mike Bibby and Jason Williams. Last year, more than 60 former NBA players played, including multiple lottery picks and All-Stars.

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Lots of TBT teams are made up of college players reuniting to represent their school. Syracuse has Boeheim’s Army, Marquette has the Golden Eagles and Memphis has Bluff City, to name a few.

Other teams feature overseas players joining forces. One such team is Overseas Elite, which has won the past four TBT titles — totaling $7 million in winnings.

With that much talent, TBT isn’t some recreational league.

It’s good, intense basketball with high-end players all over the floor. So it should be no surprise TBT has become a popular destination for pro scouts — mostly from overseas clubs, but also a bit from the NBA.

And for pro rookies like Baer and McGlynn, that exposure is invaluable. 

“Absolutely,” Baer said. “That’s something I’m looking forward to, as well, because I’m trying to play professionally overseas. That’s my goal.”

Tournament action begins July 19 and continues until the August 6 championship game in Chicago. 

Eight teams were selected as regional hosts in cities such as Salt Lake City (Team Fredette), Wichita (Aftershocks) and Syracuse (Boeheim’s Army). A TBT selection committee, of sorts, then picks the other 56 teams.

Crawford is confident that a roster with as much college and professional experience as Iowa United will make the field.

“We’re going to be right there,” Crawford said. “The entire roster scored over 12,000 collegiate points. There’s a lot of experience. And the best thing is we’ve got a ton of shooters. We’re not going to run out of shooters.

“The team we put together is exactly what we wanted. We wanted a lot of deadly shooters, real good point guards and some big guys that are tough.”

NEWSLETTERS
Thank you! You’re almost signed up for
Keep an eye out for an email to confirm your newsletter registration.

Iowa United is also playing in TBT to promote Fore the Veterans, a Des Moines-based nonprofit organization that assists military veterans with free rounds of golf.

The tournament field will be announced on June 11. Iowa United is currently projected for the Memphis regional, should it make the field.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

Source: Des Moines Register