Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Rob Hollomon figured, ‘Why not?’
The former West Catholic two-sport star in basketball and football was lounging on his couch, channel hopping five summers ago when he came across something called “The Basketball Tournament,” or TBT, as it’s commonly known, on ESPN. So, an idea popped in his head: Wouldn’t it be cool to gather up some Big 5 alums that he knew to create a team in TBT?
TBT was actually born in Philadelphia. Its website describes TBT as a $1-million-winner-take-all tournament. Anyone is eligible to play. It was started by TV producer Jon Mugar on a whim off a text thread and its first game was played in 2014 before 17 people in Philadelphia at 8:30 a.m. It has since blossomed into a multi-million dollar, single-elimination tournament of 64 teams shown on ESPN globally, featuring former college stars, former NBA players, and European players looking to stay sharp during the summer.
Hollomon decided he could form a team—Team Big 5.
“I saw this tournament on TV and figured why not show everyone what Philly has,” said Hollomon, 31, a 2009 West Catholic and Central Connecticut State University graduate who is a marketing consultant. “I thought about all of the guys who I knew from Philly to see if we can put a team together to actually win it this year. The teams are made of professional players, former NBA players, and we have a strong roster of 10 guys who all played in the Big 5.
“I have personal relationships with these guys who have a common vision and there is a $1 million dollar prize for the winner, so that’s what the message was. It wasn’t a hard sell. Guys wanted to play. I would consider this a passion project. It’s been great. I always thought I had an eye for sports, and I think everyone here has a common goal. We have guys that can score and guys that can play defense.”
Khalif Wyatt will be the coach of the Big 5 alumni team should it be invited to TBT. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Hollomon is the general manager and will be one of two assistant coaches with Andre Wilburn under head coach and former Temple star Khalif Wyatt, who will begin his first foray into coaching before joining West Chester University head coach Damien Blair’s staff this fall.
Team Big 5 is comprised of a mix of players from assorted Big 5 schools. Former La Salle star Ramon Galloway, a key cog in the Explorers’ 2013 Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament, tops the list, joined by fellow La Salle hoop alums Jordan Price and Jerrell Wright. They’ll team with former St. Joe Hawks’ C.J. Aiken and Ryan Daly, and former Temple players Dalton Pepper, Damion Moore, and Quenton DeCosey, former Penn Quaker Devon Goodman and former Villanova/SMU player Markus Kennedy.
There is just one hanging catch: Teams have to be accepted into the tournament.
“The best way to describe this is that it’s an open application, so anyone can apply, as long as you have a GM and seven players on your team,” explained Hollomon, who holds the rare distinction of being one of only two high school athletes in Philadelphia history to rush for over 3,000 yards in their football career and score 1,000 points over their basketball career, joining current Archbishop Ryan coach and athletic director Joe Zeglinski, a 2005 Ryan graduate. “They have a selection committee, and they pick all of the 64 teams. Some of the criteria is based on fanbases. You’ll see some alumni teams in this, from Syracuse, Ohio State, Marquette. Another criterion is the reliability of the team to make wherever the games are being played, and obviously, the quality of the team.
“I like our team. I know our team has the quality. We have the Big 5 connection. I think we’re in good shape. We have a great fan base and I’m just curious to see where we’ll be competing.”
The TBT selection committee will announce live its 64 teams — NCAA Tournament style — on its social media platforms and YouTube on Wednesday. The tournament begins with eight regions of eight teams on July 16, with one of the sites being New York City’s fabled Rucker Park, in Harlem. It will be the first time TBT will be held at an outdoor venue.
*Editor's Note: Big 5 was announced in the 64-team field on Wednesday. The team will open against Ex Pats (made of former Patriot League standouts) in the Rucker Park Region (July 16-20). NG Saints, a team of former Neumann-Goretti players that includes Scoop Jardine, Lamarr Kimble, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Ja'Quan Newton among others.
There is a street ball aspect to the games that’s unique. Beginning in 2017, each TBT game uses the Elam Ending, a target score theory concocted by Ball State University professor Dr. Nick Elam, who’s also a part-time groundskeeper for the Cincinnati Reds. After the third quarter, the game clock is turned off and eight points are added to the leading team’s score for a target score. The game ends when one team reaches that target score, ensuring each contest finishes with a made basket — just like a playground game. The NBA All-Star game has used the Elam Ending since 2020.
Galloway and Kennedy have previously played in TBT, including when Galloway played with some of his former La Salle teammates for 20th and Olney in 2016. Their new head coach Wyatt is another tournament alum.
“This tournament gets bigger and bigger every year and it gives players an opportunity to compete before the world, so coaches can see them and, for coaches as well, to see what they can do,” said Wyatt, who after leaving Temple in 2013 played in Europe for nine years and is scheduled to graduate from Temple in December with a degree in social work. “This is a great opportunity for me to show what I can do as a coach before I begin my new journey as a coach. I’ve coached AAU for the last couple of years getting my feet wet.
“I want to put these guys in a position to win. It’s what coaches are expected to do. My daughter was born March 23, and once she was born, I decided I wasn’t going to play professionally anymore. After I decided to retire, the most natural progression was coaching. When I was asked about this opportunity in the TBT, I told them I was retired. Then they asked me about being a coach. I think I’ll come out of this experience as a better coach.”
Wyatt said if the Team Big 5 is selected, they will hold a mini-camp for the group.
“The Big 5 is pretty prestigious and I would think that the TBT would want this team as part of their event,” Wyatt said. “Our team has the talent to win it all. Fatherhood has changed my life and made me realize that I didn’t want to miss anything, so I couldn’t continue my playing career. But this TBT starts my coaching career, and I can’t wait to start working with the kids at West Chester.”
Kennedy, 30, said he was sold on Hollomon’s message, and he’s played in TBT before. The 30-year-old who graduated SMU has played in six different countries over the last six years lives in West Philadelphia and is looking forward to playing in TBT again.
“This is a great talent filled with a lot of talent, and I think we can do well,” said Kennedy, who is a father of two. “I know what the TBT is about and playing with guys from Philly was a big deal to me. The TBT was fun. It’s a great environment. I can’t wait. Knowing the talent we have, we should be picked.”
For Daly, 24, the son of former Monsignor Bonner and St. Joe’s star Brian Daly, and grandson of the legendary Jimmy Boyle, this is his last opportunity to play.
Ryan played at St. Joe’s after starring at Archbishop Carroll. Last season, he played for the Chicago Bulls summer league team and for the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers’ G League teams but decided he doesn’t want to continue to pursue a professional career.
“The Big 5 has meant a lot to me and has always been special, and this is an opportunity to play with guys I watched playing in the Big 5 and to play for someone I always looked up to, Khalif Wyatt,” Daly said. “But this is it for me. I’m in decent enough shape and I’m confident that I can still play. I’m really excited for this opportunity. I remember all these guys I’ll be playing with. They probably don’t know how much of a fan I was of them growing up.
“I am trying to squeeze what little basketball I have left in me. I’ll be playing my ass off for my teammates and I had a hard road to get to where I am. It’s not an easy road, and I came from a special basketball family with a ton of support. This for me is special, because I get to play for everyone who gave so much up for me. This is more for them, than for me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m playing because I love it, but I want to make a run at this because I want people across the country to recognize what the Big 5 is. We have the talent. We’re doing it to show what the Big 5 is all about.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.