From Los Angeles to Grand Rapids, from Puerto Rico to Japan, Devin Ebanks has seen a lot in 12 years of professional basketball. This summer, he will embark on an entirely new challenge: TBT 2022.
On Tuesday, Best Virginia announced Ebanks will appear on its roster for the first time in this year’s tournament, joining four fellow WVU alumni and a Fairmont State great already announced to be on the team. Ebanks brings something unique to the squad: the most NBA experience.
Ebanks played 63 games across three seasons in the NBA, earning 15 starts for the Lakers under Phil Jackson and Mike Brown. Since then, he has played all over the world, dominating leagues on three different continents, most recently leading the Bahraini club Al-Manama to a Bahraini Premier League title.
The forward from Queens, New York has had to take on a lot of different roles, culminating in his latest season as the premier player for Al-Manama’s championship squad.
“I was in a role where I pretty much had to carry a lot of the offensive load and obviously defense as well,” Ebanks said. “I didn’t lose my defensive tendencies but I know folks in West Virginia…will probably see that I’ve added to my game.”
Ebanks averaged 11.2 points per game in two seasons as a Mountaineer under Bob Huggins, then joined Phil Jackson’s Lakers as a second-round NBA Draft pick in 2010. 12 years later, he is now playing under a different crop of a coach at Best Virginia in James Long, who now heads WVU Tech after graduating from WVU in 2017.
“He puts a lot of demand on these guys at TBT,” Ebanks said. “I got to experience a little bit of James last year and he takes it very seriously, I would give him his credit. Obviously, he’s a head coach…but I’m excited to get down there.”
Of course, Long’s job is easier when a lot of the chemistry is already in place. Ebanks helped lead WVU to the 2010 Final Four alongside Kevin Jones and John Flowers, two of the team’s founding members, so there is over a decade of experience with that duo. He also has played a lot with some more recent alumni, even playing on the same team as 2016 graduate Jaysean Paige in Puerto Rico from 2019-20.
Like most WVU hoops alumni, Ebanks does his best to come back to Morgantown to stay in shape with other former stars, so he says it should be an easy transition.
“I don’t think it will be too much of a chemistry thing because we’ll all just fall right back in because I actually do have experience,” Ebanks said. “It’s just that the West Virginia faithful don’t really know it.”
He does believe that he brings a bit of a different dynamic to the team. Many of the players on Best Virginia are a little more traditional, he says, fitting the mold of a specific position. Standing 6-10 and boasting a 34.8-percent three-point percentage this past season, he prides himself on being a versatile hooper.
“I think it’s more of a dynamic of an inside-out game and being able to switch defenders onto little guys and big guys,” Ebanks said. “I’m like a player that’s in today’s modern NBA, I would say. It’s positionless basketball.”
TBT does bring a unique challenge to the hardwood with its patented “Elam Ending.” Unlike the typical four-quarter game that ends when the clock hits zero, a target score is assigned based on the leading team’s point total with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. It aims to eliminate the late-game fouls and ramp up the intensity of the conclusion.
It seems to have worked because even the NBA has adopted the format for the All-Star Game.
That is a pretty substantial change, though, so Ebanks says it might be a little awkward of an adjustment for him at first.
“It throws more gas on the [fire] that you know that you’ve got to get stops, or you need to score here, so it makes every possession important,” Ebanks said. “So that will be a difference for me.”
The West Virginia Regional of TBT tips off on July 24 at the Charleston Coliseum. Best Virginia hosts the event with Herd That, a team mostly made up of Marshall alumni, and will compete for a trip to Dayton, Ohio for the tournament’s quarterfinals.
Before that tips off, however, fans have the chance to get an up-close and personal look at Best Virginia at an exhibition game at Fairmont State on July 16. The team will also hold two skills camps on July 17 and July 22.