“We’re going to put on a show” – Baltimore Sun
The former Maryland and Georgetown men’s basketball players will look to rekindle a local rivalry when they face off on Aug. 6 in an alumni game.
This will be the first event under the alumni basketball league, which was founded by former Missouri and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kareem Rush. Game time, location and ticket prices will be announced at a later date.
“We have bigger visions for [the league]”, said Rush. “We want to start this 2023 season with several teams [and] replay in these historic rivalries, but also build the framework of the first professional league centered on former college students.
In 2018, Rush hosted an alumni basketball game between Missouri and Kansas, which generated over 2,500 spectators. The game’s success inspired Rush, the 1999-2000 Big 12 Rookie of the Year, to consider creating a league centered around former college stars.
The Rush idea was shelved for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, when he went to a Missouri high school reunion in February, he discussed his plans with co-founder Jake Jackson and Jason “Coop” Conley. Months later, Rush and Jackson contacted Conley, who played at Virginia Military Institute before transferring to Missouri, to get involved.
“Only a few college kids end up turning pro,” Rush said. “Most of the guys who played high-level college basketball ended up having careers overseas. The fans, who followed them through their college years, lose sight of them. Coming back from overseas and playing in front your college fans is appealing to gamers.
Rush wanted to set up a game as quickly as possible, so he relied on Conley’s connections in the Washington and Maryland area to orchestrate the ABL’s first game on the East Coast. With Maryland and Georgetown being the best-known teams in the region, Conley, who is in charge of business development for the ABL, thought it best to start with them.
“I spearheaded this game with both teams,” said Conley, the 2002 NCAA scoring champion. “I know the story because I live here. I know they don’t play together [often] and I thought that would be a good idea.
Former Georgetown guard Chris Wright and former Maryland forward Travis Garrison are the general managers of each team, working with Conley and Ricky Goings, the ABL’s East Coast team operations manager, to form the lists.
The Maryland team, which calls itself the “College Park Boys”, will consist of former players Anthony Cowan Jr., Melo Trimble, Ekene Ibekwe, Damonte Dodd and Byron Mouton. Trimble, a former McDonald’s All American, averaged 15.9 points per game in three seasons for the Terps and was named to the All-Big Ten Conference First Team in 2017. He played overseas in Turkey, in Spain and Australia.
Cowan, a three-time All-Big Ten selection, is one of two players in conference history with 1,800 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. The program’s all-time leader in consecutive starts (130) and free throws made (579), Cowan helped the Terps clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title in 2020. He played 15 games for the Memphis Hustle in the NBA G League during the 2020-21 season and recently played for Aris Basketball Club in Greece, averaging 15 points and 5.5 assists.
After Mouton helped Maryland win a national title in 2002, he played professionally in Germany, France, China and the Dominican Republic. He founded and still runs a youth basketball program in Maryland called 6th Man Sports while coaching for Lanham Christian School in Prince George’s County.
“We’re not losing,” said Garrison, a former McDonald’s All American who spent 11 years playing overseas. “The fans are going to be excited and we’re going to put on a show.”
Meanwhile, Georgetown team “DawgTalk” will feature Wright, Henry Sims, Greg Monroe, Greg Whittington, Rodney Pryor, Jagan Mosely, Aaron Bowen and Jason Clark. Wright, Monroe, Whittington and Sims have NBA experience. Monroe, a 2010 Detroit Pistons first-round draft pick, played 10 seasons in the NBA, including 14 games last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.
“For us to have the opportunity to get back on the court and relive some of our college memories, everyone jumped,” said Wright, who currently plays for Derthona Basket in Italy. “It gives more incentive to go out there and play and have a good event.”
Rush said the league’s second game between Kansas and Missouri will be later this year. He hopes to have up to 16 teams by next summer. Even though bragging rights are at stake, players will be paid for their participation, according to Rush.
“Even if you’re not guaranteed a million dollars in the first year, you’re guaranteed something,” Rush said. “As the league grows, you’re not only guaranteed a share of ticket revenue, but also streaming and merchandising revenue. I’m coming from a player’s perspective, I want make sure players are supported.