Interviews

The Basketball Tournament interview with Jamal Shuler (VCU Ram Nation)

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The american shooting forward, who is currently playing overseas in France, answered all my questions about the famous $2 million tournament. Reading this awesome interview, you will know everything about the backstage of this huge event.

Can you explain the concept of the tournament?
It’s a « win or go home » tournament. You have to win 6 games, and the team that does that win 2 million dollars. You divided the money by 10 or 11 players, and also the coachs and general manager, they get a little piece. That is my third year playing at it. This year was the close I got, to the lead 8, playing with my older mother, the VCU Ram Nation team. They have a sponsorship by ESPN so some of the games are televised. The deep you advance, tough the competition is. It’s pretty good for some of basketball.

How did you registered your team and participated in the competition?
The concept is fan friendly. The only way you can get into the tournament is by fan votes. The more votes you get, the higher you see this. We finished as the second seat, so we had a pretty get back from a lot of alumni. You can vote on social media or the website thebasketballtournament.com. It’s a good concept to get fans involve and also the biggest fans generated most votes also get 20 000 dollars, a part of the earn. It’s pretty cool.

You played for VCU Ram Nation alumni’s team. Did all the members of the roster really played for this university at college?
All, expect for two guys. We had Reggie Williams. He led the Nation in scoring but he was at College in VMI two years in a row. We had a guy, Dion Wright, from LA who is pretty good and helped us. But pretty much everyone else was a VCU alumni. We worked out each other during the summer time, and we had a good run at it. We lost against the three time champs, « Overseas Elite », so it was ok.

At the time you were in college, were you already a teammate with some of the players who made the tournament team this year?
I played with a few guys. Two of the guys were a class higher than me. Some of the guys from the Final Four VCU team were freshman when I was senior. With some of the other guys I didn’t play in College, we all worked out at VCU every summer. That is how we continue to get better and build a good chemistry.

In your team, how the players had been selected for TBT?
We have two coaches and one general manager. Because the summer is busy for a lot of guys, especially when you play overseas – you want to relax and stuff like that – they asked a lot of guys about what are they plans during the summer and what is their availability to play in. The majority of guys were usually around during the summer time, so it was a pretty easy process to select the team.

The prize money for the team winner of the tournament is 2 millions dollars. But do participating teams have to pay to register?
Just to get in the tournament, you don’t have to pay because it is voting system. But you have to pay for your travel (flight, hotel and rent a car) for the first round. If you advance after the first round, the TBT pays for your expanses. That is the only money you have to pay, for your travel.
It’s a pretty good concept because you really don’t have to come with your pocket that much. If you win the tournament, each player will get around $200 000. It worthy if you have a good team.
But, if you want to add a player, yes, you have to pay. I think it’s 3 000 dollars. We added one more big men (Justin Tuoyo), and we did gofoundme. A lot of people, a lot of alumni, helped us to add a guy. We get a spot due to injuries and guys not showing up. We raised the money and it helped the guy who played. He played so well, he get a contract in Hungary to play for a team.

If you had won the tournament, what would you have made about the money?
I would gave half of the money to my wife, and I think would pay a lot of bills. And use the rest probably for vacation before I had to come back overseas. This one of those things, you don’t want to think about the money. It motivated you to play harder in a game. When you think: « Ok, we had a good chance to get the money », you can lose side of playing basketball. We were between that and we lost.

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You finally lost during the quarter finals versus « Overseas Elite ». Since the creation of the event in 2015, they are simply undefeated (18-0). Do you and your team have any regrets?
The only regret I think is, we had a 10 point lead against them, and we really didn’t scored in the last 7 minutes. We played individually, the ball didn’t moved. They are a physical team, strong and they have a lot of shooters: Errick McCollum, Kyle Fogg. They just played very well and that is the reason why they win during three years in a row. You really have to play a perfect physical game to beat them.

Your teammate Romeo Travis get married last weekend, so he couldn’t played that important ultime game. Did his absence was fatal to your team?
We really missed him. He is physical and a vocal leader for us. He knows how to play basketball. He is one of my best friends. His presence has definitely missed. He could used his scoring ability, his physic quality. But he had a beautiful wedding with a beautiful wife and family. Like I said, everybody in the summer time has they own plans. You can’t be mad about it.

The first game of the tournament was tough for your team too..
It was one of those teams we didn’t really know them. They played hard. The first game is always you feel out the competition and you really don’t know what those guys are able of. If they are a shooter, a driver, a rebounder. We were lucky enough. Jamie (Skeen) only missed two shots maybe that game and he hits the buzzer beater. It was cool.

What is the level of competition comparing TBT to french Pro A or BCL?
A lot of overseas professionals played on each team. Casper Ware was on the team that lost in the championship game. DJ Kennedy, DeAndre Kane, Sean Marshall, Austin Daye, it was a lot of professionals. A lot of NBA players was there but can’t played, like C.J. McCollum from Portland TrailBlazers, Darren Collison from the Indiana Pacers. The Ohio State team was coached by Evan Turner. It’s a lot of guys that played in Pro A and Champions League. It’s not a high level because some of guys weren’t in shape because they just played a long season. We still know basketball. The more you are organize, the far you advance. There is the Ohio State team, the Syracuse team with CJ Fair from Limoges. It’s not a high level because we are in shape when we play Pro A or BCL. But it’s close to a high level, it’s very competitive for the summer.

What about the fans?
It’s a lot of fans, especially VCU because our fans travelled well to support us. We had a lot of fans there, in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a good atmosphere.

As a professional basketball player, do you have an insurance in case of injury?
No, that is the only problem. If you have an injury, and you are not under contract, it can hurt you. Even if you are under contract, if you have a major injury, it can be a big problem with your team. That is the next thing the TBT need to work on. Professional guys have high contracts overseas, so they need to be insured for the injury.

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