Saturday’s game, scheduled for the pavilion court at Maryland’s Xfinity Center, will feature 18 former Terps and Hoyas, most of whom play overseas. The Maryland team, named “The College Park Boys” is made up of Trimble, Stoglin, Anthony Cowan Jr., Damonte Dodd, Travis Garrison, James Gist, Ekene Ibekwe, Sean Mosley and Byron Mouton. The Georgetown team, known as “DawgTalk,” features Aaron Bowen, Jason Clark, Greg Monroe, Jagan Mosely, Rodney Pryor, Henry Sims, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Greg Whittington and Chris Wright.
General admission tickets are being sold for $15, and various other VIP options are available. The game will not be televised or live-streamed.
Garrison and Wright are serving as the teams’ general managers, meaning they assembled most of their respective rosters.
“It’s an easy pitch,” said Wright, who recently returned from playing in Italy. “We all had a great time playing together, so it’s basically reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, let’s hoop.’ It gives us a chance to play together, to get some work in, to represent our schools and get paid while we’re doing it. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Each player will receive $2,500 for participating, according to Kareem Rush, the league’s creator. Rush, who played at Missouri and for several NBA teams, came up with the idea when he tried out for the first season of ‘Big3’ and noticed the large turnout at tryouts. He believed there was hidden potential within all the talent just outside the NBA because most former college stars spend their professional careers far from the fan bases that rooted for them.
“What we noticed was that nobody was really tapping into the college marketplace outside of the NCAA,” Rush said. “We wanted to be the first league that does that.”
In 2018, he helped put on a charity game between Missouri and Kansas, the alma mater of his brother, Brandon Rush. The success of that event inspired him to expand, but the coronavirus pandemic put those plans on the shelf until this summer, when former Tigers teammate Jake Jackson helped him tackle a bigger project.
For now, Jackson, the founder of a venture capital firm, is funding the ABL. Rush said the plan is to use a few games this year as a proof of concept before expanding into a full league in 2023, when he hopes ticket sales, television rights and merchandising can help make the league financially viable.
“If guys are coming back [to the United States] and they want to stay in shape, why not play in a league where you make some money and get to play in front of your former fan base?” Rush said. “That’s a good way to stay in shape.”
When another former Tiger, Jason Conley, came on board, he suggested the D.C. area as the perfect place to put together the league’s first game. There was talent available, and there was a mostly dormant rivalry between Maryland and Georgetown.
“When it comes to college, people stay fans of those teams forever,” said Monroe, a former Georgetown center who was the No. 7 pick in the 2010 NBA draft and played for four teams, including the Washington Wizards, this past season. “Anytime you have players coming to represent a program again, people will always gravitate to that because they have a certain school pride. And especially at programs like Georgetown and Maryland, you’ll always have plenty of players to pull from.”
Being a New Orleans native, Monroe said he didn’t truly understand the potential of a Maryland-Georgetown game until his team played the Terps in an early-season tournament in Florida in 2008. It was one of just four times the teams have played since 2000, leaving the rivalry to be fueled mostly by what-if scenarios.
“You hear it all the time, guys asking what would have happened way back when if Maryland had played Georgetown,” Garrison said. “When we used to see Georgetown guys, we could talk all the trash we wanted because we never played. If we never got to play them, it didn’t matter.”
Now players will have a chance to back up that trash talk on the court. Their college days may be over, but the rivalry can live on.
“I know neither team wants to lose,” Trimble said. “That alone will make it a good game.”