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Remembering The Fighting Alumni

In the summer of 2014, The Basketball Tournament (TBT) was born as a single-elimination, winner-take-all event open to any basketball player in the country 18 years or older. The tournament has blown up into a two-million-dollar pay day for the winning team and boasts over 60 teams participating each year. The TBT has been dominated by a team called Overseas Elite, which has won five consecutive titles and is currently in the final four of the of this season’s tourney looking for its sixth-consecutive championship. 

But during that first summer, with a $500,000 check hanging in the balance, a team of Notre Dame men’s basketball alumni came together to claim The Basketball Tournament’s first title and joins Overseas Elite as the only previous winner of the TBT. 

‘The Fighting Alumni’ was a 10th seed in the 2014 field, but defeated No. 23 NYCSuperStars (78-66), No. 26 Sideline Cancer (75-66), No. 15 *THE CITI TEAM* (74-61), No. 11 PeacePlayers International (91-61) and No. 1 Team Barstool (72-68) in the championship game to claim the $500,000 prize. 

Here are a couple of event recaps from ESPN and SLAM Magazine, along with a first-hand review of the preparation for the title from team member Zach Hillesland.

All 11 Notre Dame players who made up the Fighting Alumni roster are indeed graduates of the University of Notre Dame and they made their former head coach, Mike Brey, very happy by donating $40,000 of their 2014 winnings to Brey’s Coaches vs. Cancer initiatives. 

Here is a break down of who played on the 2017 Fighting Alumni team and where they are today (corresponding number to the image above). 

1 – Chris Thomas (2001-05)

Thomas is the General Manager of CycleBar in Fishers, Indiana, and a partner in 100% Hoops – a professional basketball development project in the Indianapolis area. 

2 – Colin Falls (2003-07)

Falls is the President of GeoWealth, a financial services company in Chicago, Illinois.

3 – Rob Kurz (2004-08)

Kurz is back in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area as an entrepreneur and investor. 

4 – Zach Hillesland (2005-09)

Hillesland is a Senior Brand Strategist at Kohler and current Notre Dame men’s basketball radio color commentator. 

5 – Tory Jackson (2006-10)

Jackson was Inducted into Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and is the current head varsity coach at John Glenn High School in Bay City, Michigan. 

6 – Torin Francis (2002-06)

Francis has played professionally for 13 different teams in eight countries overseas and spent 2018-19 with Quimsa Santiago del Estero in Argentina. 

7 – Jordan Cornette (2001-05)

Cornette will be a college basketball analyst and studio host for the ACC Network (one of the network’s foundational hires in anticipation of its launch in 2019) after serving as host of ‘The Jam’ in Chicago from 2017-19. He also was the Notre Dame men’s basketball radio color commentator from 2007 through 2015. 

8 – Tyrone Nash (2007-11)

Nash, the 2014 TBT Most Valuable Player, has played professionally for seven teams in five countries, most recently Vechta in Germany during the 2018-19 season. 

9 – Kieran Piller (2005-07)

Piller, who helped organize The Fighting Alumni, is currently an NBPA certified agent at Priority Sports.

10 – Russell Carter (2003-07)

Russell founded the Connie Cares Foundation in 2014, dedicated to his grandmother Constance (Connie) Carter, a former pre-school teacher and breast cancer survivor. 

11 – Ryan Ayers (2005-09)

Ayers will begin his third season as an assistant coach at the University of Notre Dame in 2019-20.

12 – Paul Gause

A Seton Hall guard from 2005-09 and the only non-Notre Dame alumnus on the 2014 team, has played professionally overseas and most recently for The Hall (Seton Hall alumni team) in the 2018 TBT.