By: Aaron Williams
One of the biggest changes of the 2019 Drew League season from the previous one is a contracted field of teams—24, down from 28 last year. The reduced number of teams means that a season-ending record over .500 wins might not be enough.
Each team will have to work to win as many matchups as possible as decisively as they can to put themselves ahead in a tiebreaker. Simply put, with fewer teams and correspondingly fewer games, each game matters that much more.
But who are the teams, and what are their stories? Knowing the players and narratives behind their respective goals and obstacles are a big part of what makes basketball so fun. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the 24 teams and the basics of what you need to know.
Returning Teams: Baxter’s Legacy, BB4L, Black Pearl Elite, Blazers, Hometown Favorites, Jaguars, MHP, Nationwide Blue Devils, No Shnacks, Optimus, Pandas, Panthers, Problems, Prodigy, Reapers, Team Watson, YoungCIti.
The 2018 Champions: Redemption. Led by coach Keion Kindred and sharpshooting point guard Jonathan Gibson, aka “The ATM,” Redemption overcame Nationwide Souljas’ Marcus Williams and Glen “Big Baby” Davis to take the 2018 championship. Nationwide Souljas returns this year as well, rebranded as Nationwide Blue Devils.
Elite Teams: BB4L, Blazers, and Problems are all teams that have previously won championships at the Drew League. BB4L is led by Casper Ware and Van Girard and is noted for winning their championship at the end of an undefeated season.
Blazers sniper Kyle Gibson is one of the hottest-shooting guards in the Drew. Problems won multiple titles and is one of the few teams to have done so back-to-back—they also are made up of two championship winning teams, adding youth to their lineup in the form of Houdini’s All-Stars shooting guard Garrett Nevels.
2018 Surprises: Black Pearl Elite and YoungCiti, formerly known as Young Legends, both stood out in their first season in the Drew, as Black Pearl guard Julian Jacob and Young Legends forward Eric Williams were two of the standout players last year. Legends’ guard Keith Smith was also the recipient of the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year award, while the team’s coach, Lawrence Robertson, won Coach of the Year.
New Teams: ALL IN, CABC So. Cal, I-Can Allstars, L.O.S., Public Enemy, Tuff Crowd. Technically, only ALL IN, L.O.S., and Tuff Crowd are truly new although L.O.S. boasts a group of Drew League vets including former MVP Pat Rembert, while Tuff Crowd brings back fan favorite Brandon Jennings. CABC and I-Can Allstars are teams that have played in the Drew in previous years, and formerly fielded talent like Mychal Thompson (CABC) and Vince Camper (I-Can).
However, the team everyone may end up keeping their eye on is Public Enemy. With the demise of former champs Birdie’s Revenge, many of Birdie’s Players reformed under a new banner, wile three-time MVP Franklin “Nitty” Session returns to lead them.