Ridaught: Gator greats to make TBT debut

The Florida Gators mens basketball team won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
The Florida Gators mens basketball team won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
Courtesy of UAA Communications

The University of Florida is the last Division-I school to win back-to-back national titles in basketball.

The Gators won the national title in 2006 and 2007, becoming the last team to repeat since Duke (1991-92).

A few key members from that team are back for another title run.

Gataverse, which includes former Gator greats Taurean GreenCorey Brewer, and Lee Humphrey from those national title teams, will make its debut in The Basketball Tournament next week.

Other notable former UF players on the Gataverse team include guards Erving WalkerKeVaughn Allen, and Walter Hodge.

Brian Klatsky, who is the father of current Gator guard Alex Klatsky, is the general manager of the team.

He is the founder and president of OpenLocker, Inc., which opens additional opportunities for athletes to increase their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) earning potential with additional collectibles, strategic partnerships, community building and rewards for fans.

The team is coached by former UF assistant men’s basketball coach and UF alum Matt McCall.

It’s the first time that UF has had a team of alums in TBT, which includes former NBA and college players, along with overseas professionals.

The TBT is high-level basketball.

Rolling Stone magazine wrote that “TBT appeals to the belief that maybe, just maybe, you and your buddies can catch fire for a few games and shock the world. It is more than simply a hoop junkie’s dream; it is, perhaps, the highest-quality basketball this side of the NBA.”

Take it from me, as I had a chance to be courtside and broadcast games in Los Angeles and Philadelphia in 2016, and I got my first introduction to the TBT in 2015 when there were over 90 teams and at least 125 players with NBA or NBA Development League experience in the field, according to a tournament spokesman.

There’s a winner-take-all $1 million prize, but for some, it’s also a showcase with a chance to land on an NBA team.

On Saturday, July 22, Gator fans will have a chance to meet members of the team and watch them scrimmage in Gainesville.

Family-friendly festivities offering fans an opportunity to meet and greet and a chance to get autographs from over 20 current UF athletes in a variety of sports from baseball, football, basketball, gymnastics, golf and more will be available at Saturday’s Fan Fest.

The event will take place from 3-5 p.m. at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, with the “Run it back” Classic exhibition game featuring the Gataverse TBT team to follow.

The team held its first practice on Thursday, in what essentially was the start of a four-day camp.

“We’ve only got four days to prepare for this thing,” McCall said on “Sportscene with Steve Russell,” which airs weekdays from noon to 2 p.m. on 98.1 FM and 850 AM in Gainesville. “You know, it’s kind of like NBA Summer League. You don’t get a lot of time so I’ve actually reached out to several NBA guys, ‘hey, tell me how I’ve got to get this team prepared to play a game,’ really if you look at it three days because we have the Fan Fest and the scrimmage at Santa Fe one of the days.”

TBT is similar to the NCAA tournament in that it’s a bracket format, single elimination tournament, with regionals taking place around the country in Wichita, Louisville, West Virginia, Syracuse, Dayton, Lubbock and Xavier.

The 64-team field features 75 players with NBA experience and 34 college alumni teams.

This year’s Final Four will be held in Philadelphia. The semifinals will be at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2. 

The championship game will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 3.

As the number five seed in the Louisville region, Gataverse will play number four seed Shell Shock, a team comprised of former Maryland players, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25, in the Round of 64 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. The game will be televised on ESPN+.

“This is the first year for us, this is the first year for them, so we don’t have a lot of film,” McCall said. “We’ll do some research on certain players that are on the team. Robert Carter is a guy that’s on the team, had a great career there, and I think he’s still playing professionally, so we’ll try to just pull some personnel stuff. And once we’re there, you’ll get your eyes on the other teams.”

In addition to UF and Maryland, there will be Auburn (War Ready) and Louisville alums (The Ville) playing in the Louisville Regional, along with Eberlein Drive, which has Kentucky ties.

To purchase tickets to Saturday’s event or for more information, visit www.Gataverse.io.

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