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Former Gonzaga standouts Josh Perkins, Kyle Wiltjer expected to play in TBT

UPDATED: Sat., June 27, 2020

Canada’s Kyle Wiltjer dunks during a Group H match against Lithuania in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.  (Jim  Meehan / The Spokesman-Review)
Canada’s Kyle Wiltjer dunks during a Group H match against Lithuania in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. (Jim Meehan / The Spokesman-Review)

Even before his team was officially included in The Basketball Tournament’s 24-team field, former Gonzaga point guard Josh Perkins was eager to get back on the court.

“The first time I’m going to get into a game I’m taking it,” said Perkins, a member of Playing for Jimmy V.

The $1-million, winner-take-all TBT is scheduled for July 4-14, marking the return of live televised basketball games in the U.S. after three-plus months on the sideline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virus altered the TBT, too, reducing the field from 64 teams, three weekends and multiple sites to 24 teams competing at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, with numerous safety protocols in place. Every game will be aired on the ESPN family of networks.

Perkins, former Zag Kyle Wiltjer, ex-Eastern Washington star Jacob Wiley and former Idaho Vandal Jeff Ledbetter are listed on TBT rosters. Wiltjer, Wiley and Ledbetter are playing for seventh-seeded The Money Team.

Josh Akognon, who played at Washington State in 2005-06 before transferring to Cal State Fullerton, is playing for Power of the Paw (Clemson alumni). Akognon, 34, has had a long career playing professionally overseas.

TBT organizers selected 24 teams and two alternates from nearly 120 entries. Playing for Jimmy V was the first alternate and replaced Best Virginia after a Best Virginia player tested positive for COVID-19.

Perkins last played in a game on March 8 with the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA G League affiliate.

“One of my boys is (Playing for Jimmy V assistant coach) Vinny Vetrone and he called and asked if I wanted to play,” Perkins, a first-time TBT participant, said recently.

Tenth-seeded Playing for Jimmy V faces No. 23 Herd That, a squad of Marshall alums, in the opening round. A victory would move Playing for Jimmy V into a round-of-16 matchup against The Money Team.

Rosters aren’t set in stone, but a TBT official confirmed that Wiltjer joined The Money Team earlier this week, replacing former Zag forward Austin Daye, who has played the last three seasons in Italy.

Wiltjer, who saw time in 14 games with the Houston Rockets in 2016-17, played for Turk Telekom in Turkey last season after stints with Olympiacos in Greece and Unicaja in Spain. Wiltjer, a Portland native, led Turk Telekom in scoring (17.9 points) and minutes (27.9) while hitting 42.9% on 3-pointers in 15 Basketball Champions League contests.

Wiley, a Newport High product who was the 2017 Big Sky Player of the Year, played for Panathinaikos in Athens, Greece, before the season was canceled in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Wiley averaged double figures in points in previous stops with Adelaide in Australia and Gran Canaria in Spain. He averaged 11.8 minutes and 5.4 points with Panathinaikos. The 6-foot-8 forward had a five-game stint with the Brooklyn Nets in 2017-18.

Ledbetter has played the past four years with G League Austin, a San Antonio Spurs affiliate. He’s a regular on San Antonio’s summer league squad. The 6-3 guard averaged career highs in points (13.6), rebounds (3.3) and assists (3.4) in the 2018-19 G League season.

Ledbetter averaged 12.8 points and made 45.4% of his 3-point attempts as a senior at Idaho in 2011.

The Money Team includes Wiltjer’s Turk Telekom teammate Nick Johnson, a former Arizona standout, and former Washington Husky guard Tony Wroten.

The Money Team is sponsored by boxing star Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr., who is apparently good friends with Jordon Crawford, point guard for The Money Team.

Former Zags Jeremy Pargo and Ira Brown were originally listed on TBT rosters but aren’t expected to play. Pargo, who helped Overseas Elite win the 2018 title, signed with Hapoel Jerusalem, which resumed playing in the Israeli league last week.

“I’ll actually be GM of the year if we (Overseas Elite) go win the championship,” cracked Pargo, the TBT’s all-time leader in game-ending shots with five.

Brown was on the roster for Supa Crew but didn’t want to jeopardize his contract with a Japanese team. Supa Crew wasn’t selected to the 24-team bracket.

TBT players will be administered several COVID-19 tests leading up to their first game.

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