AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Tuesday night, eight UB basketball alumni will play in a championship game in Ohio, for a chance to win a million dollars.
“I know we’re happy as a team. We’re excited,” said Blake Hamilton, who plays guard/forward for the team. “We’re just happy to go out there and compete and we’re blessed to be in this situation.”
Their team, Blue Collar U, is one of the final two of 64 alumni teams that played nationally.
“Our group is representing, certainly, the community here in Buffalo,” said their former assistant coach — now UB head coach — Jim Whitesell. “It’s really exciting to see a lot of our former players back and playing.”
The competition not only brings national attention to UB’s basketball program, but the team continues to represent the community they used to play for in a positive way.
“Not only were they very good basketball players, they were excellent student athletes,” Whitesell said. “Some of those kids got their Master’s degree here, their undergrad here, and really had learned about giving back.”
Throughout the tournament, the team has worn jerseys that honor the victims of the May 14 racist massacre at the Jefferson Avenue Tops Markets. After winning each game, they placed the jerseys down on the court and said a prayer in the victims’ honor.
“To shed a light on the situation in a positive way,” Hamilton said. “When the tragedy happened in May, it was just an idea that came across in our group chat and we just thought it would be big for us to pay honors to those victims. Being embraced in the Buffalo community, and going to UB, I think it was big for us, especially being African-Americans, we realized that it could have happened to any one of us.”
Thomas McArthur, the Associate Vice President for Alumni Engagement at UB, commented on the group’s impact.
“This is a group that has always focused on community and building character, so once again, it’s just great to see them focused on the Western New York community,” he said. “It just reminds you that the collective impact that our alumni have locally, regionally and globally.”
Tip off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, and the UB alumni have set up watch parties at both J.P. Fitzgerald’s in Hamburg, and at Anchor Bar in Amherst. Those who can’t attend the watch parties can also watch the game on ESPN.