Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Introducing the Massachusetts basketball team competing for one million dollars

The Commonwealth to represent Massachusetts in the TBT
Cade Belisle / Daily Collegian (2015)
Cade Belisle / Daily Collegian (2015)

While the Massachusetts athletic calendar may seem empty, for one UMass-led team, games are just around the corner.

That team would be The Commonwealth, a squad made up of past college and professional basketball players who have some connection to the state of Massachusetts. For much of the roster, this connection to the Bay State comes through the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, as nine of the team’s 11 players have suited up for UMass.

The Commonwealth are taking part in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) this summer, a single-elimination competition now in its 10th year where 64 teams battle for a one million-dollar cash prize. Over half of the field is college alumni teams like The Commonwealth, but with the tournament being open to anybody able to put together a competitive roster, many different types of squads are competing.

The TBT is divided into eight eight-team regionals. Like the NCAA Tournament, teams are seeded between one and eight depending on their talent. For their first tournament, The Commonwealth drew a five seed in the Syracuse region. Their first-round opponent is the  four seeded Virginia Dream, who will be coming into the game on three days’ notice as a replacement team. That matchup will be July 24th at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

If The Commonwealth win their first-round matchup, they’ll likely go on to play the TBT’s defending champs: one seed Blue Collar U, a University at Buffalo alumni team. That second-round game would be on July 26th at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

“There’s not a lot of times in sports where you can go back to a team from the past that was legendary and put it all back together again,” head coach of The Commonwealth Mike Mannix  said. “[The TBT] is one of the most unique opportunities in sports. I mean, we’ve taken UMass’ last NCAA Tournament team…we have a bunch of guys from that team. We’re saying ‘Hey, let’s run this thing back.’”

Along with Mannix, these eleven players make up The Commonwealth’s inaugural roster:

Mike Mannix

Mannix, a 2002 UMass graduate, is at the helm for The Commonwealth as they make their first TBT appearance. Mannix currently serves as the assistant athletic director and boys’ prep basketball coach at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

C.J. Anderson– #8

College- UMass (2014-18)/Most Recent Team: Art Giants Dusseldorf (Germany)

Anderson played all four of his collegiate years at UMass. The guard from Memphis stuck with the Minutemen for his senior season despite a coaching change, and was rewarded with the starting point guard spot, where he averaged 10.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.

Coach Mannix: “Definition of versatility, he can play different positions. You can put him as a ball handler, or you could put him off the ball. His size gives him the opportunity to be a scoring, ball-handling guard, and really good on the defensive end.”

Donte Clark– #0

College- UMass (2014-17), Texas Southern (2017-18)/Most Recent Team: Harem Spor (Turkey)

Despite only spending three years in Amherst, Clark made an impact, with the Charlotte native scoring over 1,200 points in a UMass uniform. Clark transferred to Texas Southern for his senior year, where he made it to the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Mannix: “[Clark] can really, really shoot it… where [Clark] changes the game is his ability to knock down shots.”

Maxie Esho– #18

College- UMass (2010-15)/Most Recent Team: Saitama Broncos (Japan)

Esho had a sizable role on the Minutemen teams of the early 2010s and would start every game for the school during his senior season. After spending a year in the G-League, Esho has bounced around overseas, playing in Kosovo, Canada and Japan.

Coach Mannix: “When he was at UMass, he was like a highlight film…He’s expanded his game from UMass so he can stretch the floor. [Esho] was a guy that was really athletic and active in the press and he can just make a lot of plays.”

Brison Gresham– #55

College- UMass (2016-17), Houston (2018-21), Texas Southern (2021-22)/Most Recent Team: AEK Larnaca (Cyprus)

Gresham, a highly touted high school recruit, returns to represent UMass after a freshman season in which he started 13 games. After three years with Kelvin Sampson and Houston, Gresham’s biggest season came at Texas Southern, where he averaged 7.3 points and 2.3 blocks.

Coach Mannix: “Six-foot-nine guy, super athlete around the rim. Blocks shots, rebounds, tries to dunk everything.”

Anthony Lee– #33

College- Temple (2010-14), Ohio State (2014-15)/Most Recent Team: Espanol Osorno (Chile)

While Lee never suited up for UMass, he brings boatloads of experience to The Commonwealth. After starting 73 games in three years for Temple, Lee spent his final collegiate season at Ohio State, where he played in 21 games.

Coach Mannix: “[Lee’s] another big guy…That’s [going to] help us, you know, be a better team in the paint and rebound the ball, give us some size.”

Carl Pierre– #12

College- UMass (2017-21), Rice (2021-22)/Most Recent Team: Rice (NCAA)

Pierre is one of the younger players on the roster at 24 years old. The six-foot-four-inch guard left quite an impact on Minutemen basketball, as he ranks second all-time in the program for made three-pointers. After four years in Amherst, Pierre transferred to Rice, where he made the all-conference third team in his lone season as an Owl.

Coach Mannix: “Big time shooter… developed into a really good player while at UMass.”

Luwane Pipkins– #2

College- UMass (2015-19), Providence (2019-20)/Most Recent Team: BK Olomouc (Czech Republic)

When Pipkins transferred to Providence during the 2019 offseason, he left UMass as one of its most prolific scorers of all time. In his sophomore season, Pipkins averaged 21.2 points per game, still the most a Minutemen player has averaged in a season in the past 50 years.

Coach Mannix: “[Pipkins] is an exciting guard. You’re talking about a guy that’s five-foot-eleven, six feet tall. Just dynamic.”

Freddie Riley– #4

College- UMass (2009-13)/Most Recent Team: UMass (NCAA)

Riley played all four of his collegiate seasons at UMass. The highly touted recruit would do the bulk of his work for the Minutemen outside the arc, as over two-thirds of his 980 collegiate shot attempts were threes.

Coach Mannix: “[Riley] was taking and making a lot of threes and we’re talking like six to seven years behind that  3-point revolution…[Riley] was an elite shooter before the 3-point revolution.”

Terrell Vinson– #32

College- UMass (2009-13)/Most Recent Team: VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum (Germany)

A consensus top-100 recruit out of high school, Vinson was a reliable option for the UMass teams of the early 2010s. Through four years for the Minutemen, Vinson never missed a game and started in 129 of his 132 appearances.

Coach Mannix: “[Vinson] is a guy that, again, is like that forward-center combo. If he catches at the elbow or if he catches [in the] short corner, with his combination of strength and athleticism and just being a bucket getter, you’re in real trouble if you’re covering him.”

Chaz Williams– #3

College- Hofstra (2009-10), UMass (2011-14)/Most Recent Team: Club Ourense Baloncesto (Spain)

There’s not much that Williams didn’t do throughout his three years in Amherst. The five-foot-nine-inch point guard led the Minutemen to their most recent NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014, along with being named to the all-conference first team three times and becoming the program’s all-time assist leader. After graduating, Williams entered a successful overseas career that’s still ongoing.

Coach Mannix: “If you look up dynamic, small guards in the dictionary, [Williams] is the dude, right? … Can score it, get to the bucket. Just electrifying.”

Ethan Wright– #21

College- Princeton (2018-22), Colorado (2022-23)/Most Recent Team: Colorado (NCAA)

While Wright never suited up for UMass, the Newton native has ties to the state. After three years at Princeton, Wright spent this past season at Colorado, playing 14 minutes during the Buffaloes’ game against the Minutemen.

Coach Mannix: “[Wright], he’s that kind of traditional two-guard … He’ll catch and shoot in a small amount of space. He can get stuff done, like put the ball in his hands off the dribble.”

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @DeanWende1.

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