Marquette Wire

Two wins away from $2 million, Marquette alumni team eyes TBT title

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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After hitting the game-winning shot to send the Golden Eagles Alumni to the semifinals of The Basketball Tournament (TBT), Marquette alum Travis Diener told ESPN’s Jennifer Hale he was planning to sleep and “drink some beer” between Sunday and the semifinals Thursday.

“A bunch of different (beers),” Diener later explained. “Some local Atlanta beers that I took a liking to.”

Now Marquette’s alumni team is hoping to have more money for those local brews, standing two games away from TBT’s $2 million prize.

“You always have that in the back of your mind,” guard Maurice Acker said. “Playing for $140,000 (per player).”

While the team has competed for this prize the last two years, a sense of urgency resonates throughout the team this year. It’s not just about playing with old teammates anymore; they want to win.

“For $2 million, you’re going to play hard,” Diener said Sunday. “I think we’re taking it a lot more serious than they have in the past.”

At one point in the regional finals during a timeout, head coach Joe Chapman simply wrote the $140,000 share for each player on his coaching whiteboard.

“I huddled them up, wrote 140 and they looked and said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this,’” Chapman said.

Even for a player like Diener with five years in the NBA and another five years playing overseas, the money can make a big difference.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play at the highest level and make some money, but I have three kids (and) I have a wife,” Diener said. “You can do a lot of stuff, and you can give back to your community.”

Most players on Golden Eagles Alumni are not in Diener’s position. Out of the three players to spend time in the NBA – Jerel McNeal, Jamil Wilson and Diener – Diener is the only one to play more than 15 games in an NBA uniform.

“For a lot of guys, that’s life-changing,” Diener said. “It’s a lot of money.”

The Marquette alumni team is closer to the $2 million than ever before, advancing past the second weekend this year for the first time in the team’s three years in TBT.

“We’re playing the right way,” Diener said. “We’re playing together. We’re playing unselfish.”

“We probably don’t have the most talented team we’ve had in the last couple of years,” general manager Dan Fitzgerald said. “But we found a way to play really well together. The ball is moving really fast.”

However, advancing past the semifinals will be a tall task. Golden Eagles Alumni will take on Overseas Elite Thursday night at 6 p.m. Central time. Overseas Elite has not lost a TBT game in its history, as the team has won the last three TBT titles.

“It’d be quite a story if we could pull it off, but we’re playing a team that hasn’t lost in this tournament,” Diener said. “It’ll be very challenging.”

While the 10 Overseas Elite players went to eight different colleges, most have played in highly competitive leagues overseas.

“It’s not streetball,” Diener said. “They play on top-level European teams, and that’s why they’ve done so well.”

“They’ve got a bunch of really good individual players that play really well together,” Fitzgerald said. “We need to come out firing again, but certainly in the final four, anybody can win. Hopefully they’re due for a loss.”

Marquette’s alumni team will clearly not be favored on its quest for $2 million, but the team has embraced it.

“We’re fine being the underdog,” Diener said. “We were probably the underdog (Sunday against Syracuse’s alumni team), especially with the crowd.”

And if Marquette wins, Diener will share his couple of beers with the rest of the team.

“If we win, I’m going to throw a big party for our team with part of that money,” Diener said.

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About the Writer
John Steppe, Executive Sports Editor

John Steppe is the executive sports editor for the Marquette Wire. He is a junior majoring in journalism and double-minoring in digital media and Spanish. He primarily covers men’s basketball, women’s soccer and basketball recruiting. You can follow his coverage on Twitter @JSteppe1.

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