Thomas Gipson walked into the auditorium at ICE Family Basketball Center and stared down a pair of his fellow Kansas State men’s basketball alums, D.J. Johnson and Martavious Irving. Johnson was in the middle of answering a question from the media when Gipson said, “So y’all are just going to do the interviews without me, huh?”
The three of them stared at each other for five, maybe 10 long seconds, then all laughed as Gipson joined them at the podium.
It’s been these three, friendly banter and all, that have organized another team for Purple and Black, the Kansas State alumni team set to compete in The Basketball Tournament (TBT), which starts in Wichita on July 26. Purple and Black’s first game is against Team Colorado.
“Everybody obviously is in different parts of their lives so, I’m here, (Irving) is there and DJ is there, but we all communicate with each other,” Gipson said. “We kind of started (recruiting) early and wanted to because last year we felt like a bit of a disappointment. But we reached out to each other early and try to get the rosters going and focus on it.”
These three only were able to gather a total of six players last year, including themselves, leaving almost no breathing room or substitution options. They already are past having to deal with that again, addressing it with more able bodies.
Irving confirmed that, along with himself, Gipson and Irving, the Purple and Black roster would include Marcus Foster, Akeem Wright, Jevon Thomas, Justin Edwards and Curtis Kelly.
“Even with six guys last year we did our thing,” Gipson said. “So even if it is six or seven guys this year, I still think we will be fine. We will feed off the energy in the arena.”
While the tournament isn’t part of a specific league, the three former players, who all play professionally overseas, said it’s still going to be tough competition.
“It’s different because it’s professionals,” Gipson said. “Obviously it’s not going to be like the NBA or anything like that, but when you run across a guy you played with overseas, and he’s had a certain job that maybe you wanted, it’s always going to be a competitive nature.”
One of the nice things about being back in Manhattan for these guys is the access to the facilities. Irving spent the last season in Indonesia, Johnson in South Korea and Gipson in Turkey and Finland, so the consistency and familiarity is relieving.
“I know myself, graduating six years ago, I come back every summer,” Irving said. “The resources here are extremely great for guys like us. A lot of times when you are overseas you may not have access to a cold tub or treatment. On top of that, playing against these young guys who are good is iron sharpening iron. We are very thankful for the coaching staff letting us come back here every year.”
The Purple and Black team still is looking to add to its roster, hoping to increase to nine or 10 players in all.
The inclusion of former star Jacob Pullen would be a major lift for this team, but regardless, the team remains prepared and excited for the tournament.
“Every year it’s pretty good,” Johnson said. “It’s well organized. It’s one of the best I’ve been a part of.”