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Levinsky: Team Challenge ALS Looking To Win TBT For Greater Cause

Guest contributor writes about a team participating in The Basketball Tournament that will be fighting for a great cause

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

For former Boston College Eagle Sean Marshall of Team Challenge ALS, the 2017 TBT represents a chance to raise awareness for a disease that ended the baseball career of former BC peer and friend Pete Frates.

“I played in The Basketball Tournament for two years prior to this and this year I just wanted to do something special,” said Marshall who will play and also serves as the General Manager of the Team.

“Last year we had Skinner’s Frate Train which was a group of guys who went to Boston College Marshall said “Frate Train for Pete Frates so this year I wanted to do something that was based solely around Pete. I talked to his mother and brother and we came up with the Team Challenge ALS idea and the main focus was trying to bring awareness.”

More commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is “ is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord” according to the ALS Association website. The lethal disease affects roughly 20,000 Americans at any time. The disease inhibits voluntary muscle movements, and has no cure.

Pete Frates was diagnosed in ALS in March of 2012 at age 27. Despite his disease, Frates and his family have brought ALS awareness around the world by inspiring The Ice Bucket Challenge. Marshall was a college roommate of Frates and they remain good friends.

Team Challenge ALS features a talented nine player roster headlined by Marshall, former Mississippi State star Dee Bost, former New Jersey Net Jerry Smith, and is coached by current Sacramento Kings point guard Darren Collison. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is a team booster along with Frates.

Marshall compiled the roster after having good friend Darren Collison sign on as coach. For the eight year NBA veteran, being a coach brings on a new challenge.

“It’s going to be a totally different experience. I’ve coached before but not at this level and it wasn’t guys that were this good,” Collison said. “It’s going to be a unique experience. They call me a rookie coach so I take it as a challenge. I think I’ve been around and played for a lot of different coaches, really good coaches, so I am going to take experiences from them to try and prepare and implement it for this team.”

The ALS awareness mantra was the icing on the cake for Collison to agree to coach.

“I did my own research and kind of liked the cause. After doing the research I felt like it was something I could be a part of and get involved and try to bring more awareness to everybody else. I’ve seen how it (ALS) affects some and it hurts, it kind of hurts me to talk about it. Just the fact that I am trying to support the cause is actually a good thing for myself to make me feel better.” Collison told us, “Now I have a chance to coach a team that I’ve never coached before. I think it’s going to be a good challenge and a fun challenge.”

Should Team Challenge ALS win the 2017 TBT, the $2,000,000 cash payout will be split among the players, coaches, and boosters, with Frates receiving the most at $250,000 and the players $139,000 each.

Smith found out about the team through Larry Gordon, another member of Team Challenge ALS, Smith has also played against Marshall in Turkey. Marshall personally reached out to Smith as well.

“We [Gordon and I] played last year in the BBL together. Gordon reached out to me about playing for Team Challenge ALS. I played against Sean Marshall this season in the TBL.” Smith said, “When they approached me and told me about the guys they had on the team, and then told me what the cause was for it made perfect sense. I thought it was just great idea to raise awareness towards it.”

“It’s been a great year so far and we’ve been playing really well. Right now, we are fighting to get ourselves into the playoffs and it’s been my best year statistically as a pro. It’s been a very efficient season for me and I feel like I am getting better and better,” said Smith, who is in his 6th professional season after a standout career at Louisville. The 6’2 guard owns averages hovering around 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists a game with Samsunspor of The Turkish Basketball First League.

“As the years go on I learn more as a pro and add more to my game. Hopefully I can bring different things to the team this summer in the TBT,” Smith said.

For former Mississippi State star Dee Bost being teammates with Marshall in Turkey two seasons ago helped foster a friendship that lead him to suit up for Team Challenge ALS, “Ever since then we’ve been real good friends. He contacted me and told me that he wanted me to play. I said yeah because most importantly we are trying to raise awareness for ALS and for Pete Frates. That’s the main important thing.”

Bost has not experienced anyone suffering from ALS, but through Marshall has learned of its effects. “Pete Frates is my first experience really hearing about it. Sean, gave me inside info about it as his roommate.” Bost said, “It’s definitely inspired be a lot because you can never take anything for granted. Now we just want to help raise awareness to help those that have ALS and most importantly help him.”

“It’s important because, nothing can be taken for granted and anything can happen at any moment. A lot of us are blessed to even be playing basketball and doing things we love to do,” said Bost who currently plays for the first seeded AS Monaco Basket of the French Pro A League and Champions League. He looks forward to the final four of the Champions League, but looks forward to this summer to bring his “all around game” to Team Challenge ALS.

Marshall is appreciative of his future teammates for joining to fight ALS, coming together for a noble cause.Team Challenge ALS is eligible in the West Region, their motto "Team Challenge ALS is playing to raise awareness and contribute funds to support those affected by ALS. ‘Join us and our dear friend, Pete Frates and help us #StrikeOutALS! Team Challenge ALS and Marshall are playing for more than a Tournament win.“For me personally, I’m touched by the disease because not only Pete, but when I was at BC the media manager who was there who worked with me for four years died from ALS,” Marshall said. “I’ve been touched by this disease through a couple of different people. Guys who are playing in this Tournament obviously want to win the money for themselves, but for us, when it comes to game time we’ll just have ‘Frates’ on the back of our jerseys.”

Follow me on Twitter @Greg_Levinsky