The dream of putting together a team of some of the best Wichita State basketball players in the Gregg Marshall era turned into a reality Tuesday.
And the best part? It’s all taking place at Koch Arena from July 25-28.
The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team, single-elimination tournament broadcast on ESPN with a winner-take-all $2 million grand prize, announced Tuesday that a Wichita State alumni team, “The Aftershocks,” was given an automatic entry into this summer’s bracket and Wichita will be one of eight host cites for the opening rounds.
“We are a Wichita State Shocker family and that’s our mentality,” said Karon Bradley, who played at WSU from 2004-07 and is the team’s co-owner and head coach. “We still represent the city of Wichita. It’s blue-collar. It’s hard work. We’re going to bring that Play Angry mentality and the fans are going to love it.”
The Aftershocks have the possibly to play their first three games in the tournament at Koch Arena. They will open on Thursday, July 25, then if they win, play again in the regional semifinal on Saturday and regional championship on Sunday. Tickets, starting at $45 for an all-session general admission pass, are now available at GoShockers.com or by calling the ticket office at 316-978-3267.
The winners of the eight regional tournaments advance to Chicago for the final games on Aug. 1-6. Another incentive for the players is that regional tournament winners receive 25 percent of the gross ticket sales and TBT organizers are expecting Wichita to shatter the tournament’s record for attendance at 3,400.
While the other teams in the eight-team pod will not be confirmed until the summer, the Aftershocks’ organizers said that TBT hinted the pod would include the alumni teams from Kansas and Kansas State.
Bradley is the co-owner of the team along with Wichita native Tien Huynh, who is also the general manager. Bradley is joined on the coaching staff by J.R. Simon, who is a current grad assistant on WSU’s coaching staff, and Zach Bush, an assistant at Eisenhower High School.
The players who have already committed to the Aftershocks include Joe Ragland (2010-12), Malcolm Armstead (2011-13), Clevin Hannah (2008-10), Cleanthony Early (2012-14), Toure’ Murry (2008-12), Shaquille Morris (2013-18), Rashard Kelly (2014-18), J.T. Durley (2006-11), Tekele Cotton (2011-15), Conner Frankamp (2015-18) and Garrett Stutz (2008-12).
“When you look at that team, we’ve got so many big-time guys,” Bradley said. “We have 1,000-point scorers, all-conference guys, we have winners. I don’t think anyone has won more games than Tekele. Having all of these guys like that under one roof is really exciting.”
Bradley and Huynh said they have kept roster spots open in case some of the committed players are unable to attend in the summer. While basketball season in most foreign leagues wraps up in May, the NBA summer league runs through early July. If any WSU players catch on there, that could lead to a conflict.
The team has donors who will pay for lodging and food for the players to return to Wichita. Bradley and Huynh said they are aiming to have a two-week mini-camp in early July.
NBA players rarely play in the event, but there is a chance for them to be involved. Other alumni teams have had their NBA players serve as boosters, leaving the opportunity that Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors), Landry Shamet (Philadelphia 76ers) and Ron Baker (formerly of the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards) could be involved with the project at some point after their seasons conclude.
Alumni teams have made the tournament, which began in 2014, increasingly popular. While it is mostly pick-up ball without sets or traditional offense, the tournament has been able to attract a high level of talent to make games entertaining.
It’s rare for the tournament to award a team making its debut not only one of 16 at-large berths, but also a hosting bid. But after talking with Bradley and Huynh, TBT organizers were persuaded by Wichita’s potential as a basketball community to support an alumni team that’s never been seen before at Koch Arena.
“The Basketball Tournament keeps getting bigger and better every year,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “To be selected as regional host speaks to Wichita’s reputation as a basketball hotbed. This will be a treat for all of us. I’m especially looking forward to watching our all-star team of former Shockers in action. I hope Shocker Nation will join me in supporting them and the TBT this July at Charles Koch Arena.”
Bradley believes playing at Koch Arena gives the Aftershocks the best home-court advantage in the tournament. He hopes that WSU fans can sell out Koch Arena for the tournament to watch fan favorites from the past decade play together for the first time. Bradley also wants to give back to the fans and is planning on hosting a two-day camp for kids and also putting on a Fan Fest before the tournament.
Fans could have a stake in the team’s success, as well. While 90 percent of the $2 million grand prize goes to the players, the other 10 percent will be distributed to the winning team’s top fans who support through the tournament’s website.
But all of those are future concerns.
For now, the important part is the Aftershocks are officially in the tournament and did so without having to rely on a fan vote or pay a $5,000 entry fee to secure a berth.
“I’ve had the chance to watch the TBT from afar the last few years and I knew we needed a Wichita State team represented in this,” Bradley said. “To see. it all come together the way it did and the fact that we get to host, that’s a dream come true.”