Former Syracuse Orange star Eric Devendorf is spending another summer playing in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) as a member of Boeheim’s Army. To call Devendorf the heartbeat of the team is an understatement. He’s the heart and soul and lifeblood of the squad.
Although he no longer plays professionally, he still has an everlasting love for the game. He spent two years as the strength coach for Syracuse, and more recently ,he was an assistant at the University of Detroit. Now, Devendorf runs his own skills academy called ED23 Hoops near his alma mater.
TBT has been a staple for the last seven years. Notable players who played in the NBA and former college hoops stars like Devendorf have carved out memorable moments in the uber-popular tournament. To no surprise, Devendorf has been one of the best players in the tournament since first playing in 2015.
Last summer he led the team with 15.3 points per game while also averaging three rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals. This year, the Army will need Devendorf to double-back with a similar showing to be their emotional leader and best player. While the tournament layout is different than years before, there is still a huge cash reward of $1 million despite playing in the middle of a global pandemic.
“Despite that everything is going on, the goal remains the same,” Devendorf told TSFJ. “We came here to win. There are no distractions, and everyone is locked in to try to win the championship. We are staying downtown Columbus, Ohio, in the Hyatt Hotel. From there we get transported to the (Nationwide) arena to play and then we come back.”
“The whole setup is nice. We have everything at our fingertips, and there is no reason for anyone to leave the hotel. We have access to food, trainers, practice facilities — anything you can think of that’s related to basketball.”
While it may be under unfortunate circumstances, Devendorf and Boeheim’s Army are enjoying their environment for a multitude of reasons.
“Being all in one location for this amount of time allows us to focus more on the game, but it also brings us closer as a team,” Devendorf reflected. “Most of us played together at Syracuse so it’s always good to relive the memories from the great times we had.”
Despite not playing together for a while, the former college guard said the chemistry is still there.
“Everyone on the team has been a professional, so with that, it’s all about making sure there is spacing on the floor. We can all score and create for ourselves, but talking on defense and taking advantage of spacing on the offensive side of the ball will be key.”
While the players are back on the hardwood as a unit, their Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim isn’t on the sideline, but he still has a presence — hence the name of the team.
“You’d be surprised how much coach (Boeheim) is involved. He is as competitive as it gets, and although he is not coaching, we are listening to his input. He’s been around the game for so long, so he may see a thing or two that we may not see. There is a pride factor and we want to represent ourselves, but we are playing for so much more. We are playing for our head coach, the university, former alumni, current players and, of course, the community. With me recently moving back to the area it feels great to continue to represent a great university.”
Another reason why this year’s tournament has a different feel to it is due to the racial unrest that has taken a toll on the world. Over a few months, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have been killed as a result of violent law enforcement. Since then there has been a lot of protesting in major cities across the globe.
Devendorf wants to use his platform to combat racial inequality. On the court he will wear customized Paul George IV’s with “Black Lives Matter” and "George Floyd" painted on them. In addition to that, he wants to be an advocate for change.
“I want to use my platform the right way and to speak up against injustice. It’s just the right thing to do. Also, my daughters are half-black. We can’t ignore what’s going on and hope it goes away. We have to speak up and use our platforms to make a change.”
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