Brandon Mason may no longer be with the UNM Lobos, but he’s still serving as arguably the program’s best alumni relations coordinator.
Not unlike the summers of 2015 and 2016 when he was one of the people to spearhead alumni basketball games in the Pit, Mason has now brought together a roster of 15 players — a dozen former Lobos who have all played professionally, and three with New Mexico ties who also have played professionally — that will be coached by former Lobo and Los Angeles Lakers great Michael Cooper to compete next summer in the $2 million, winner-take-all TBT (The Basketball Tournament). The full projected roster is listed at the bottom of this article.
“When Mase hit me up and asked me to play, I was super grateful about it because I feel like, regardless of the outcome, at least we can enjoy each other’s company and be able to hoop together again,” former Lobos forward Drew Gordon said as part of a video coordinated by Isabel Gonzalez and TheLairNM.com, which helped with the announcement of the alumni team.
Mason, the former Lobo assistant and former NMSU Aggies great who also played for Cooper on the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, has a list of 15 players lined up with commitments to play, although only 11 eventually will be on the roster. Professional contracts for players sometimes prohibit them from participating in such events, as was the case in the past with Los Alamos High and UNM graduate Alex Kirk, who had to back out of playing in TBT two years ago due to a contract he had playing in Japan.
But Kirk is back this time, as are several of his old running mates from the past decade-plus of Lobos basketball that featured some of the program’s most successful teams.
“I just want to bring back some of those memories and some of those best times I’ve ever had playing basketball in my life,” Darington Hobson said.
As for former NBA player J.R. Giddens, who recently took over as head coach of the Northern New Mexico women’s basketball team, he saw an opportunity to remind people he left playing to get into coaching, not because he was necessarily done playing.
“This TBT thing is just to show people I’ve still got it,” Giddens said, “and I’m still a monster out there ’cause my legs feel good, I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m a competitor.”
The TBT format is one that requires a general manager position. In this case, it is Mason, to essentially set the squad up — from coaches to players and any other positions the team feels it needs to give itself the best chance at winning the winner-take-all prize that is expected to return to $2 million.
A pandemic-restricted 2020 tournament was reduced to 24 teams with a $1 million prize won by a West Virginia alumni team, and was bubbled in Columbus, Ohio, with no fans allowed. There was regular COVID-19 testing with players, and entire teams bumped out of the bubble with any positive COVID-19 test or once the team lost in the event.
As for whether the Lobo team has a shot to win the money?
“I took a look at it and I was like, oh, we’ve got a squad,” Gordon said. “We’ve got some players on the team. We’ve got some dogs on the team, so I think that it plays well into the TBT mentality.”
TBT Lobo alumni roster
A roster of mostly former Lobo men’s basketball greats, with a few exceptions, will form a team to compete in next year’s TBT (The Basketball Tournament), a winner-take-all $1-2 million basketball tournament held each summer. The team was announced Monday night.Players:
• Darington Hobson
• Jamaal Smith
• Antino Jackson
• Scott Bamforth*
• Anthony Mathis
• Kendall Williams
• Deandre Lansdowne**
• Tony Danridge
• Drew Gordon
• Wendell McKines***
• Alex Kirk
• Cameron Bairstow
• Tim Williams
• Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas
• J.R. Giddens
*Bamforth played at Weber State and Del Norte High School
**Landsdowne played at Fort Lewis College and at Sandia High School
***McKines played at New Mexico State University
Head Coach: Michael Cooper
General Manager: Brandon Mason
Assistant Coaches: Craig Snow, Kory Alford
Staff: Ryan Berryman, Dairese Gary, Roman Martinez, Kenny Thomas, Joe Mares