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Greg Levinsky: Team Challenge ALS Eyeing Their First TBT Title And To Help Raise Awareness

Guest writer Greg Levinsky talks to Team Challenge ALS coach Sean Marshall and Casper Wear about the 2018 TBT

San Antonio Spurs v Chicago Bulls

In its first year on The Basketball Tournament circuit, Team Challenge ALS made an improbable run to the championship game before ultimately falling to three-time reigning champ Overseas Elite. This summer, Team Challenge ALS is reloaded and even more prepared for a run at the $2 million dollar prize.

General Manager and TBT 2017 All-Tournament performer Sean Marshall (18.3 PPG) assembled another deep roster for 2018, as fellow 2017 All-Tournament guard and former Philadelphia 76er Casper Ware (18.8 PPG) return to the roster along with former Boston Celtics Kevinn Pinkney and former New Jersey Net Jerry Smith.

“When we lost in the final everybody kinda committed to coming back for this summer,” Marshall said. “It really wasn’t hard to get guys to come back with the way we lost, everyone was just eager to come back.”

Ware, who currently plays for Melbourne United of the Australian Basketball League, admires Marshall’s dedication to the team.

“You don’t see a lot of people that do so much for something or are involved like this he is just all about raising awareness and that’s all he really talked about,” Ware said. “He’s always about that slogan.”

Of course, the team came together in support of Marshall’s roommate during his time at Boston College, Pete Frates. The former collegiate baseball player suffers from ALS and Team Challenge ALS plays in his honor with hopes to find a cure for the disease.

Indiana Pacers point guard and nine-year NBA starter Darren Collison returns to coach the team and players Deshawn Stephens, Ivan Aska, Larry Gordon and Marvelle Harris also come back from last summer’s inaugural team. Marshall’s current teammates in Turkey, former St. Mary’s guard E.J. Rowland and six-year NBA veteran Jeff Ayres are new additions for summer 2018.

Ayres spent time with the Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers. He even started 10 games on the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs NBA Championship squad. He looks to bring that same pedigree to TBT.

“A championship mentality,” Ayres said. “I know a lot of guys made it to the championship last year, but being coached by the best coach and playing with some of the best players to play the game brings a certain amount of experience you can’t get anywhere else.”

Marshall lured both Ayres and Rowland to the roster while the two have spent this winter as teammates in Turkey playing for Eskişehir Basket of the Turkish Basketball Super League.

As the tournament itself grows in appeal, having been televised on the ESPN family of networks last year, the prize money went up as well from one to two million last year. The larger appeal leads to more revenue which could continue to raise the winner’s pot.

“I think it’s going to attract a lot more people,” Ware said. “I think there a lot of schools with big alumni trying to get players in.”

Unique to the team is its foundational approach in raising money for ALS awareness. Marshall set a goal to raise money and ultimately #StrikeOutALS. They donated $250,000 last year and hope for more this time.

“Seeing how passionate he (Marshall) is with the cause behind it and how much fun they had with last year’s tournament I wanted to be a part of it,” Ayres said.

“A couple of the guys have been personally affected by it were on board from the beginning,” Marshall said. “The guys who weren’t familiar with it really bought in and that’s what made it so special. Our real concern wasn’t the money, it was for the people trying to fight for their lives.”