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Collison Nearly Coaches Team to $2 Million Tournament Title

by Wheat Hotchkiss Writer/Editor

Whenever Pacers guard Darren Collison decides to retire from the NBA, he might have his next career move already planned out.

Acting as head coach, Collison shepherded Team Challenge ALS to a runner-up finish in The Basketball Tournament, an open-application, single-elimination tournament featuring 64 teams competing for a $2 million grand prize.

The tournament always features a number of former NBA players and college stars and this year's edition was no exception.

Collison tried his hand at coaching this year, leading his team on a Cinderella run to the championship game. They ultimately came up just short, falling 86-83 to Overseas Elite, who has now won the tournament three straight years.

Team Challenge ALS was assembled by Sean Marshall, a former Boston College star who was inspired by the story of Pete Frates, his college roommate who is suffering from ALS and popularized the Ice Bucket Challenge as a way to promote awareness of the disease.

Would they have won, the team planned to give $250,000 of their winnings to Frates and his family to help cover medical expenses.

The team's roster featured mostly players originally from the Los Angeles area. Collison, who played at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga and later at UCLA, was brought on to coach the team.

The roster included Austin Daye, a six-year NBA veteran and former Gonzaga Bulldog, and Casper Ware, a 5-10 guard who played briefly for the 76ers in 2014 and scored a team-high 22 points and five assists in the title game. One of the team's boosters was Atlanta Falcons quarterback (and Boston College alum) Matt Ryan.

With Collison at the helm, Team Challenge ALS went on a remarkable run to the title game. Originally given a six seed in the West Region, they knocked off the second, third, and fourth seeds to reach the semifinals.

They beat The Stickmen, a team featuring former Pacers forward Ike Diogu, in the second round and later rolled past Armored Athlete — a squad that included Indiana alums Will Sheehey, Jordan Hulls, and Christian Watford, as well as Purdue's Jon Octeus — in the quarterfinals.

Team Challenge ALS then picked up an 88-83 victory over Scarlet & Gray, a team of former Ohio State players including Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and Jon Diebler, to advance to the championship game.

In the finals (televised nationally on ESPN), Overseas Elite got 29 points from Kyle Fogg and 18 from D.J. Kennedy to thwart Collison's squad's title hopes. Overseas Elite's most recognizable name is DeJuan Blair, a former All-American at Pitt and seven-year NBA veteran.

In a classy gesture, Kennedy said after the game that Overseas Elite would donate some of their winnings to help support the fight against ALS.

Ivan Aska had 18 points for Team Challenge ALS in the loss. Marvelle Harris added 13 points, while Daye contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.