Three former Kent State University men’s basketball players are set to compete for Mid American Unity in “The Basketball Tournament,” a 64-team single-elimination tournament that awards the entire prize pool of $2 million to the winning team.
Michael Porrini serves as the point guard and general manager for Mid American Unity, and has organized a squad that also features Justin Manns and Jay Youngblood.
“I’m honored to play in the TBT, and be able to put not only Mid American Unity under the spotlight, but Kent State athletics as well,” said Porrini. “This is a huge opportunity to display our talent and come together to represent Northeast Ohio.”
Porrini, a Massillon native, played two years for the Golden Flashes after starting his collegiate career at Western Carolina. He was named Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2010-11, when the Flashes reached the NIT quarterfinals, and Third Team All-MAC as a senior. The versatile 6-2, 200-pound guard averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals in 69 games for KSU.
Porrini played professionally overseas, and was selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NBA Development League Draft by the Oklahoma City Blue.
Mid American Unity exists thanks to the efforts of Porrini, who organized the team, hired the staff and brought in an athletic training staff while setting up accommodations and nutritional meals.
“Last year as just a player (in The Basketball Tournament), I knew I would want to have my own team,” said Porrini. “So I took the route of becoming the (general manager) of Mid American Unity.”
“I chose that route because I knew what it would take to put a team together, with a staff and administration,” Porrini said. “I’ve been in certain situations in my career where I was able to take lessons, both in Europe and in college, to be the best GM that I can be for the upcoming tournament.”
After organizing the team, Porrini had to rally fans to put Mid American Unity in the top nine of the Midwest in a fan vote.
After successfully qualifying for the tournament, Porrini’s squad is scheduled to start tournament play against Bradley’s alumni team “Always a Brave.” Mid American Unity is seeded 14th in the Midwest region.
“It’s a great opportunity for Mike, and for a number of our former players,” said current KSU head coach Rob Senderoff, who took over the program before Porrini’s senior season. “We’ll be cheering them on from Kent. We’re excited to follow them.”
Manns and Youngblood also enjoyed successful careers at Kent State.
Manns, a 6-11 center, was Porrini’s teammate for two years with the Flashes. He then played professionally overseas and in the NBADL.
Youngblood played two seasons at Kent State, and was named First Team All-MAC after leading the 2006 squad to MAC Tournament and regular season titles. The 6-5, 200-pound guard has been playing professionally overseas since his KSU days ended. He has been playing in Lebanon since 2010, and averaged 21.2 points for United Byblos in 2016-17.
The entire tournament will be featured on the ESPN networks. The opening weekend, held at Bradley, will take place Saturday and Sunday and carried on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN app. The next round, the ‘Super 16,’ will be held July 20-23 and broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2. The last round, taking place in Baltimore, is set for Aug. 1-3 and will be aired on ESPN.