Last year, a group of Colorado basketball alums were happy enough to share a few laughs during what proved to be a short reunion on the court.
A year wiser to what exactly will lead to success in The Basketball Tournament and the $2 million championship pot in the balance, the CU alums have reconvened in Boulder this week with a greater emphasis on the basketball portion of the reunion.
The Basketball Tournament began three years ago and has gained a substantial following rather quickly. A sort of glorified pro-am, pay-to-play competition featuring a wealth of former college stars and even a few former NBA players, The Basketball Tournament features a winner-take-all payoff of $2 million. That winning jackpot was $500,000 in the 64-team tournament's inaugural year of 2014 and $1 million last year.
The alumni group has arrived in Boulder this week for a mini-camp that will include a pair of scrimmages against the current CU Buffaloes. The focus and devotion of time are a far cry from last year, when the CU alums held a lone, loosely-organized 45-minute practice before suffering a quick exit in a tough opening draw against the tournament's eventual runner-up.
"We're way ahead of last year," said Trent Beckley, the only CU player to play for coaches Ricardo Patton, Jeff Bzdelik, and Tad Boyle. "We had a bad matchup last year. Matchup-wise, we were in trouble. We didn't really have a coach last year. Beau (Gamble) was kind of the coach and GM. Now we have a full coach putting in a system. I wouldn't be surprised if we make the Elite Eight. In fact I kind of expect that."
After not playing in TBT's first incarnation, Gamble essentially organized the first Team Colorado by himself leading up to last year's tournament. That daunting task included finalizing the roster, leading fundraising endeavors, and securing travel arrangements and lodging among countless other responsibilities.
This year, with Beckley sharing those administrative duties, Team Colorado not only expects to be more prepared for the tournament, but they get to enjoy a three-day training camp-reunion in Boulder while providing face-to-face wisdom for Boyle's current crop of Buffs.
Beckley, for instance, put on his general manager glasses in helping to shape a well-rounded roster, making sure all the pieces fit instead of simply signing up the first 10 or so alums to show interest.
"Great kudos to Beau Gamble and Trent Beckley as the two guys who really kind of spearheaded the movement to get in this tournament and to organize the guys and raise money," Boyle said. "It wouldn't have happened without those two guys. I'm really thankful that they did it. They have taken great pride in getting those guys together and tying the different eras of Colorado basketball together."
For the second year in a row Team Colorado will feature the program's co-all-time leading scorer Richard Roby, who has spent the past three seasons playing professionally in Japan. Austin Dufault, Marcus King-Stockton, Levi Knutson, Marcus Hall, Jayson Obazuaye, and Marcus Relphorde are among the other former Buffs filling out Team Colorado's roster.
The group will be coached by former Buff Dwight Thorne II, who spent last season as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech and recently joined the staff of former CU assistant Rodney Billups at the University of Denver.
Team Colorado will play in the West Region beginning July 9 in Los Angeles, with first-round matchups expected to be released next week.