SVC's Engelstad leading Armored Athlete in TBT
For example, Malcolm Miller, who played at Holy Cross and in Germany, can't play. That's because he signed an NBA contract with the Toronto Raptors.
But have no fear. There are three other guys — Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and E.J. Singler — that helped Raptors 905, Toronto's developmental league team, to win the championship this season.
"The level has stepped up every year, the play and the players," said Engelstad while on a bus before practice on Friday in Las Vegas. "That's why the first two games of the region are going to be so difficult."
Engelstad is in his third season coaching Armored Athlete, whose general manager is former Mount Anthony star and Southern Vermont College coach AJ Mahar. Last season, Armored Athlete reached the Super 16 before they fell to Golden Eagles Alumni, a group of ex-Marquette players.
"There's a core of guys that's done it and we've added some more depth," Engelstad said. "We have a lot of key pieces to make a run at the whole thing."
Armored Athlete comes in as the No. 4 seed in the West Regional after making the Midwest Regional championship game in 2015 and the Midwest regional last year. The move to the West coincides with Sheehey and others participating in the D-League this season.
New players to Armored Athlete this year include Xavier's Tu Holloway and two Oregon Ducks in Singler and Garrett Sim. Another new guy is someone that Capital Region basketball fans are very familiar with — Bishop Maginn and Penn State's Talor Battle.
"I'm excited about Talor. He had such a profilic career at Penn State," Engelstad said. "He's a really good player and can fill [the basket] up, but he's also good at distributing the ball. I look forward to seeing him play."
Battle on Friday signed a deal to play for Union Olimpija in the Croatian League. Nine of the team members have professional experience.
"I look at coaching this team like a professional development opportunity for me," Engelstad said. "All these guys have really high basketball IQs and I learn so much from them. They are good players and good people, and we carry on the relationships after it's over.
Indiana alum and NBA veteran Cody Zeller is one of the biggest boosters, literally. The 7-footer posted videos on social media to get Armored Athlete into the tournament based on number of votes.
"He really helped us get the votes and to have that kind of support is important," Engelstad said.
Between Armored Athlete and OPI, the other team in TBT with Bennington-area connections, it shows a lot for the strength of basketball in this area.
"One of the goals when I started coaching at Southern Vermont was to garner lots of interest to basketball and to SVC," Engelstad said. "The community is really excited about it and what OPI was able to do to honor their friend, Owen, is fantastic. There's lots of interest in Bennington for basketball and we want to represent the area the best we can."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.