Blue Collar U players mob Montell McCrae (93) after McCrae scored the winning points on a dunk Tuesday night in the championship game of The Basketball Tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

With $1 million banked from a job well done, The Basketball Tournament champion Blue Collar U plans to get back to work next summer. and University at Buffalo’s alumni team desires to run it back at home.

In the midst of making angels in the confetti on the court to celebrate their windfall Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, after taking a moment to pray for the Buffalo supermarket shooting victims and families to whom the Bulls dedicated their efforts, team members pledged to defend their crown and continue building the blue collar brand.

“That’s just one,” all-tournament center Nick Perkins said. “See you next year.”

For all the UB basketball program has accomplished in recent years — 193 victories over nine consecutive winning seasons, four Mid-American Conference conquests in five years, two NCAA tournament triumphs, a full year in the national rankings, finishing top 15 in 2019 — Blue Collar U reached a pinnacle in TBT that eluded the Bulls as undergrads.

“It’s a great feeling to be a champion,” said C.J. Massinburg, the tournament MVP. “We’ve done it a few times in the past. We have experience with it. and we will continue to do it again in the future.”

BCU coach Adam Bauman soaked in the thrill of a victorious finish, contrasted with the sadness from ending even the most successful UB seasons with a sudden loss during March Madness.

“To have the opportunity to compete with them again, and be around them for two weeks this year and two weeks last year, it’s been a blast,” said Bauman, the director of scouting and analytics for Alabama who was previously on Nate Oats’ staff at UB. “We never thought we’d be together as a group again.”

Bauman campaigned for the next reunion to be held on UB’s campus, urging UB officials to assist BCU in hosting a TBT regional in 2023.

“Whatever needs to get done to have these guys play again in Alumni Arena, have a curtain call, everything they have done for the City of Buffalo and that program, these guys deserve to play one, two or three more games in there,” Bauman said.

Massinburg pleaded directly to Satish Tripathi, the university president. “We’ve got to get it done,” he said.

Jon Mugar, founder and CEO of the winner-take-all tournament in its ninth year broadcast across ESPN channels, said TBT “would absolutely love to consider Buffalo” as a regional site following the Bulls’ strong run to the semifinals in last summer’s debut.

“There is definitely a high level of interest” at UB, said Mark Alnutt, vice president and director of athletics. “We are supportive … of being able to make that happen. We just have to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Don’t want to guarantee anything yet. But I strongly believe we will get there.”

Lack of air-conditioning in the 6,800-seat Alumni Arena remains the biggest obstacle for hosting the summer event. The arena could be equipped with a temporary unit, Alnutt said, which has been done for previous events such as President Barack Obama’s visit in 2013. But who would pay for that solution still needs to be negotiated, along with other financial terms.

If the games can’t be played at Alumni Arena, organizers have expressed interest in locating an East Buffalo site as tribute to the mass shooting victims.  BCU memorialized the lives lost in the racially-motivated shooting by displaying names of the 10 victims and the “Buffalo Strong” slogan on their backs. The team plans to frame the blue jerseys worn for the TBT championship game and present them to the victims’ families, while donating funds raised from raffling off the white set.

The Koessler Athletic Center (2,200 capacity) at Canisius College, located within a mile of the Tops Friendly Markets on Jefferson Ave., is the largest venue in the area, but smaller gyms such as the one at City Honors School could be considered, along with outdoor facilities.

Adam March, the UB basketball booster and BCU financier, is determined to bring TBT to WNY.

“I want to bring all the different communities in Buffalo and New York that love basketball together to have the best event,” said March, who plans to organize ancillary entertainment, youth tournaments, and fan engagement events around the four-day TBT weekend. “I want to make sure we have the biggest draw that the TBT has ever had in a regional.”

March has also expanded the brand’s footprint by founding the Blue Collar Youth basketball program. Partnering with local skills trainers and starting an age 12-under AAU team that includes his son, Jordan, the ambition is for Blue Collar Youth to leverage TBT exposure and general manager Bryan Hodgson’s grassroots connections to get on the sneaker-sponsored circuits that have been out of reach for WNY programs since the GC Ballers heyday in the early 2000s.

BCU’s success has also created a platform for Hodgson’s non-profit Coaching Love Inc. initiative that will provide free clinics and equipment for at-risk youth in the foster system. Hodgson, the former UB assistant now at Alabama, was fostered by a family in Jamestown, and plans to donate a share of his TBT winnings to the cause.

“The reason why we tied the two in is because the marketing and media attention behind the TBT has blown up,” said Hodgson, who did interview segments about the program during ESPN telecasts. “We’ve got Coaching Love on all of our gear to raise awareness for the non-profit so we can hopefully run camps across the country and raise some money for these kids.”

Hodgson drew parallels between the emotional sentiment of foster parenting and basketball coaching.

“One of the toughest things about my job is coaching a guy for four years, and then when that four years is up, it’s up,” Hodgson said. “To be able to come back and coach all those guys again is awesome. Adam and I look forward to it all year.”

Trending Video

Recommended for you