Few get a redo at the college experience: bumping up that GPA, acing those statistics exams, approaching the cute girl in Chem 201. Yet that’s precisely what Beau Gamble offered in 2015 when he called Marcus Hall to ask him to compete in the Basketball Tournament. Hall had played for the University of Colorado Boulder from 2003 to 2008 before going pro in Europe, but his Buffs teams never made the NCAA tournament. “This was my second chance to represent the school at that level,” Hall says.
Founded in 2014 as a way to give college basketball junkies a fix during the summer, the Basketball Tournament is structured like the NCAA tourney, with 64 teams competing in a single-elimination bracket throughout July and early August. The winners of this competition, however, get more than a piece of the net: They split the winner-take-all $2 million purse. That carrot has drawn squads full of former NBA stars, international pros, and ex-college players (as in CU’s case) looking for a prosperous opportunity.
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Gamble, a Buffs guard from 2011 to 2014 and currently a commercial real estate broker in Boulder, organized Team Colorado in 2015. He figured the event would make for a fun reunion. Unfortunately, the guys took it a little too easy. They held one practice before facing their first opponent, Team 23—that year’s eventual runner-up—and lost by 16 points. So before the 2016 contest, Team Colorado enlisted a coach and held a three-day training camp in Boulder. The squad redeemed itself and reached the finals—where it fell just five points shy of the $2 million windfall.
Team Colorado believes it can close that gap this year (its first-round game is on July 15 in Las Vegas), thanks to a new scoring threat: Chris Copeland, a Buff from 2002 to 2006 and a former NBA player. Gamble also recruited Chauncey Billups, arguably the best CU player ever, to serve as the squad’s “booster”—a high-profile supporter who helps recruit fans via social media and occasionally provides off-court guidance. “We could use his wisdom,” Hall says. Wisdom and just five more points.