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Get to know House of ‘Paign’s 2021 roster

HoP made a surprising run last summer. Can they have a similar result this year?

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

House of ‘Paign, the University of Illinois’ “alumni” team, made a surprise run last summer in The Basketball Tournament, reaching the quarterfinals before bowing out to eventual champs Golden Eagles.

This year, HoP is back for another crack at the title — and the $1 million prize that comes with it. Several names remain the same from last year’s squad, but some new faces join House of ‘Paign this summer. Let’s meet ‘em.

Coaching Staff

Mike LaTulip

LaTulip returns for his second season as GM/Head Coach. He deserves loads of credit for putting HoP together and “recruiting” this year’s team, as well. While in Champaign, LaTulip saw action in 44 contests from 2012-2015 before transferring to Wright State for his final season of eligibility.

Jon Ekey

A former teammate of LuTulip’s, Ekey’s time with the Fighting Illini was brief — he played just one season (2013-14) after transferring from Illinois State and was a serviceable swingman, averaging 7.3 PPG and 4.8 RPG in 35 games (23 starts). He’s probably best known for this dagger to beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

After a brief pro career, Ekey is entering his sixth season as the video coordinator at SMU.

The Roster

Mike Daum

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-South Dakota State vs Ohio State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The South Dakota State alum is back for another run with House of ‘Paign in 2021. The Dauminator stole the show during last year’s tournament, leading HoP with 18.7 points per game while shooting 54% from the field and 61% from beyond the arc. Daum putting up huge numbers should be no surprise — the 6-foot-9 forward is the NCAA’s 7th-all-time leading scorer and one of just 10 players in Division I history to register 3,000 career points. We’re certainly happy to have him back.

Nnanna Egwu

Every team needs a rim protector, and the Fighting Illini’s all-time blocks leader also returns to House of ‘Paign this summer. The 6-foot-11 Egwu won’t be asked to do much scoring, but his presence down low could be key in an offensive-minded tournament. Most recently, Egwu played for Earthfriends Tokyo Z in Japan.

Andres Feliz*

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Another breakout performer from last summer’s squad, former Illini point guard Andres Feliz is expected to return in 2021. During his two seasons at Illinois, Feliz played 64 games (20 starts) and averaged around 10 points and 4 rebounds per contest. But he won over Illini fans with his toughness and competitiveness.

Feliz dazzled for HoP last year, averaging 17.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.0 APG and 1.7 SPG. He rode that momentum into his first pro season, averaging 18.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG for Spanish club CB Prat Juventud, and earning’s Player of the Year Award. He’ll play this season in Spain’s top circuit, Liga ACB, for Club Joventut de Badalona.

*As of this writing, Feliz is not with HoP due to visa issues — he is not an American citizen and no longer has a student visa.

Loudon Love

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Wright State vs Tennessee Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Geneva, Ill., native Loudon Love truly was one of the best mid-major players in the nation the past four seasons. Love just wrapped up a very nice career at Wright State, finishing as the program’s third-leading scorer (1,792 points) and all-time leading rebounder (1,123). The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder averaged a double-double last season for the Raiders (16.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG), and was named Horizon League Player of the Year for the second time.

Demetri McCamey

One of the more underrated Illini players of recent memory, McCamey donned the Orange & Blue from 2007-2011 and was named to the All-Big Ten team twice. McCamey finished seventh in program history in scoring (1,718 points) and fifth in three-pointers made (236).

He is no stranger to this event, winning the TBT championship with Carmen’s Crew in 2019.

McCamey’s basketball career has spanned four continents, playing professionally in Turkey, Israel, Australia, Japan & Italy, as well as the NBA G-League.

Kipper Nichols

After transferring from Tulane, Kipper Nichols appeared in 116 games for the Fighting Illini from 2016-2020. Nichols logged 16.4 minutes per game, averaging 6.1 points and 2.9 rebounds. His best season at Illinois came in 2017-18, when Kipper scored 310 points (10.0 PPG), shot 37.8% from three, and 86.2% from the free throw line.

The 6-foot-6 forward was a veteran presence on a younger, emerging Illini squad that would have qualified for the NCAA Tournament if not for the COVID-19 shutdown. He’s currently playing overseas for the Sheffield Sharks (England).

Brandon Paul

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One of this year’s likely “go-to” guys is former Fighting Illini star Brandon Paul. BP3 shined in Champaign, finishing top 10 in career points (1,654). Paul’s most memorable performance came against No. 5 Ohio State in January 2012 — affectionately known as the “Brandon Paul Game” — in which he scored 43 points, including 8 triples, leading Illinois to a 79-75 upset over the Buckeyes.

Paul played in Russia, Spain & Turkey before a brief stint with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs in 2017-18. Paul has since continued his hoops career overseas, playing in China, Greece & Australia. Earlier this month BP3 signed a contract to return to Spain, joining the aforementioned Andres Feliz on Club Joventut de Badalona.

Rayvonte Rice

One of my personal faves from the John Groce era, Champaign native Rayvonte Rice transferred to Illinois following two seasons at Drake. Rice’s 1,934 combined points would have put him third-all time at Illinois, behind only Kiwane Garris & Deon Thomas.

In addition to being a volume scorer, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Rice was a physical force bigger and stronger than many other guards he went up against. Oh, and there will always be this shot:

Rice had originally committed to join House of ‘Paign last season before bowing out due to COVID-19 protocols. He spent the 2020-21 season with Kyoto Hannaryz of the Japanese B League.

Michael “Juice” Thompson

Another non-Illini, “Juice” does have serious Illinois ties. Thompson played for Northwestern from 2008-2011, starting 129 games for the Wildcats. The 5-foot-10 guard finished his college career with nearly 1,700 points and averaged 40.9% from deep. HoP has plenty of other scoring options, so Thompson’s primary value could be on defense — he averaged more than a steal per game at Northwestern.

TBT is back to its normal 64-team field this year, so the competition will be even stiffer. House of ‘Paign begins play in the single-elimination tournament Saturday at 1:00 p.m. CT. Get that money!