For the second consecutive year, Pitt will not be represented by a team in The Basketball Tournament, as neither the Zoo Crew nor the Untouchables are listed as participating squads. However, at the moment, it appears Pitt will at least have one alumnus in the tournament, albeit on the side of a former rival, as former Panthers center Rozelle Nix was added to the roster of Bearcat Jam, which will represent Cincinnati in the event.
Roster announcement 2⃣: Joining Coreontae on frontline is a personal favorite of mine. Had the chance to coach Ro in high school so happy to see his maturation come to light! Graduate transfer from Pitt/South Alabama back in cincy @BearcatJam @WithrowTiger @GoBeercats 6'11 300 pic.twitter.com/EyulCzU4qB— Bearcat Jam (@BearcatJam) May 29, 2020
The decision to align with a Bearcats alumni team may seem counterintuitive for a player who split his collegiate career between Pitt, South Alabama and Pensacola State Junior College, but Nix is originally from Cincinnati and attended Withrow High School in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood. Withrow is also the source of Nix’s connection to the team.
“I got involved with the team because of my former high school coach, Melvin Levett,” Nix said in an interview with Cardiac Hill. “We’ve been talking about me joining the team for the last few months, and he’s seen me progressing ever since I left Withrow High School.”
“It’s also good to be representing my hometown of Cincinnati. For my family and friends that are close to me who haven’t seen me play basketball for a long time, they would be happy to have the chance to see me play for the Bearcat Jam. And it’s a great opportunity to play in The Basketball Tournament for the first time and to see where I am skill-wise.”
The team, which debuted in The Basketball Tournament in 2018, was organized by Levett, who is a former Cincinnati shooting guard in addition to Nix’s former coach. Joining Nix in the frontcourt will be former Cincinnati center Coreontae DeBerry and former Xavier power forward Jeffrey Robinson. And rounding out the squad, as it is currently configured, will be Ohio Midwestern alum Robbie Smythe.
Nix most recently played overseas for Illiabum Clube of the Liga Portuguesa de Basquetebol in Portugal during the 2019-20 season, and the season before that, he was with Terceira Basket in the same league. Nix showed steady improvement during his time in Portugal, averaging 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds with Terceira and then 11.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game with Illiabum.
The Pitt alum played against DeBerry in Portugal, as his Bearcat Jam teammate was a member of Ovarense Basquetebol in the 2018-19 season and Vitoria S.C. last season. But their familiarity with each other actually extends back further than that and was a factor Nix considered when making the decision to join Bearcat Jam.
“Me and Coreontae are actually good friends,” Nix said. “I met him during Christmas break back when we was in school. Me and him had good battles when we played against each other. It’s always fun going against him because we both play hard, and we both gigantic. But since we both are going to be playing together, it’s gonna be a sight to see.”
Bearcat Jam has not officially been ruled eligible for The Basketball Tournament due to the fact that it has not yet placed seven players on its roster. All teams have until June 15 to reach the seven-player threshold for entry into the tournament. The team has also enjoyed extensive support early in the team-building and tournament-entry process, as it has the sixth-highest total of registered fans and the 13th-largest social following of all the teams listed on the tournament's website.
If Bearcat Jam is accepted into the tournament, as it appears it will be, the team will be placed in the Columbus region. Other teams vying for entry into the region include Big X, Carmen's Crew, House of 'Paign, Men of Mackey and Red Scare. Big X is a team of former Big Ten players, and the others are alumni teams representing Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue and Dayton. Carmen's Crew is the tournament's defending champion.
Nix is currently the only Pitt player listed on a team that appears likely to make the tournament. Former Pitt standout Jamel Artis, who was Nix's teammate in the 2016-17 season, is on Be More City. However, the team only has two players listed and has no registered fans. In the past, Pitt alums like Levance Fields, Gary McGhee and Brad Wanamaker have played on Pitt alumni teams in the tournament, and Pitt great DeJuan Blair won a TBT title with Overseas Elite in 2017.