At this time of year, E.J. Gallup is usually competing in men’s basketball leagues in upstate New York simply to have fun and stay in shape.
Not this time.
Instead, the former Coastal Carolina hoops star will be playing in a basketball tournament that has a purse of $2 million.
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Gallup, a former Myrtle Beach resident who now lives in Albany, New York, is teaming with one of his childhood rivals, T.J. Fredette, and his little brother and well-known basketball star, Jimmer Fredette, to play in The Basketball Tournament, which pits pretty much anyone not in the NBA against one another in an NCAA Tournament-style nationwide event that is televised by ESPN networks.
We’re from the same area, played in the same high school conference, so people kind of always put [Jimmer Fredette and me] together.
“It’s like a crazy, ESPN-sponsored men’s league, I guess you can call it, for 2 million bucks,” said Gallup, who lived in Myrtle Beach while playing high-level overseas basketball for several years after graduating from Coastal in 2004 following two years with the team.
Gallup, who moved back to New York in 2010, became interested in the The Basketball Tournament two years ago and attempted to get a team into it last season. However, he learned from his “last-minute” attempt that getting into the tournament – which is in its fourth year and has its highest-ever payout in 2017 – isn’t exactly a simple sign-up sheet.
By doing that we realized the animal that this thing actually is. We were like, ‘This is really serious.’
Rather, it requires recruiting – essentially getting as many people as you can to go on the website and “vote” for your team – in hopes of gaining one of nine regional automatic entries.
This year, Gallup has teamed up with T.J. Fredette, whom he played against in high school, and Jimmer Fredette, another friend of his who was a popular college player at BYU, played in the NBA and most recently was the MVP of the Chinese Basketball Association while becoming an international star with the Shanghai Sharks.
The Fredette name recognition helped the squad – dubbed Team Fredette – easily become one of the teams with the most votes.
“Jimmer’s like the golden boy; he’s like the unicorn,” said Gallup, who played for Gloversville (N.Y.) High School in the same conference as Glens Falls, where the Fredettes played.
However, Jimmer Fredette won’t be hoisting up the long-range 3-pointers that brought him fame – and a ton of fans – in college and beyond. Jimmer and T.J. will be serving as coaches during TBT.
“At any time, if Jimmer or his agent says ‘Jimmer wants to play’ I’m going to gladly hand him my jersey and I’ll take the clipboard and we’ll exchange spots,” Gallup quipped while acknowledging that in all seriousness Jimmer will not suit up.
Gallup, 35, stopped playing international basketball in 2013 and returned home to run a used-car dealership he purchased. While he hasn’t officially retired, Gallup said running the dealership takes up much of his time, and he is also working as a scouting director to help players get basketball jobs overseas while doing high school hoops radio during the winter.
However, getting ready for this endeavor, Gallup admits, is getting his competitive juices flowing once again.
“I’m already there, man. I’m in shape, I’m working out twice a day and I’m finding jobs for these other guys overseas and I’m thinking ‘I should just give them my resume right now,’ ” said Gallup, who last played professionally for TBB Trier in the German Bundesliga in 2013. “We’ll see, man. I haven’t officially retired. … I never say never.”
Team Fredette features alumni from BYU, Wyoming, New Mexico, Dayton, Memphis, Texas Tech, Miami (Ohio), Southern Illinois and Bowling Green State.
“Our roster is really, really loaded,” said Gallup, who plans to contribute mostly as an outside shooter who can space the floor.
My role on the team will be – you know, if teams are going to play zone – I’ll come in the game and hide in the corner and keep double teams off our big guys and stuff like that.
Several of the teams entered are of the alumni nature and named after their respective college, whereas others are combinations of star players from all over the world.
A lot of the teams are like college alumni guys, so all guys that played at Syracuse will get a team. Or Kentucky or Colorado, Villanova, all these big schools, so the guys that aren’t in the NBA and they’re playing overseas, they’ll all come back and play on a team. Then there’s some teams that just like pick different guys from all different schools to make the best roster they can. It’s pretty crazy.
Some recognizable names listed on rosters include the likes of former college stars Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech), Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), Dejuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Christopher Copeland (Colorado), Jannero Pargo (Gonzaga), Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga), Blake Stepp (Gonzaga), Erick Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth) and Larry Sanders (VCU). And those are just players from teams that are Nos. 1 and 2 seeds.
With 2 million bucks, you’re talking serious money. So now you’re talking about basically the best guys in the world are trying to get on a team.
“[I’m expecting a] super-high talent level. It’s all recognizable guys if you’re a big-time college basketball fan,” Gallup said. “So I’m expecting the same type of level that I’ve seen overseas in terms of the speed and length and size.”
Should Team Fredette make it all the way through and win, Gallup’s share would likely be between $100,000 and $200,000. He said his first order of business would be to buy his mom a house.
64Teams in the bracket
“I’m from a small town so if we’ve got someone from our town on ESPN, it’s a big deal,” said Gallup, whose father owns a house in the Socastee area, making it easy to frequently come back to visit. “Just for that, I was like super excited. And then I was like thinking after, I couldn’t even imagine being able to play in this, get in shape, be on a great team and be on ESPN and then actually get that much money for it, which is crazy.”
The tournament also has a unique format in which fans can get in on the winnings. The top 200 fans who accumulate the most points – via voting and recruiting others to submit tallies – will win money, with the top fan taking home $20,000.
“It’s pretty cool,” Gallup said. “A lot of people from my hometown are in the $10,000 bracket, so everyone is getting pumped up and getting ready to watch our games and root for us because obviously if we win they get a check.”
Fellow Chanticleer alumnus Anthony Raffa played on the winning Overseas Elite team a year ago. Gallup and Raffa share a bond of being a pair of players who started their college careers at Albany before transferring to CCU, and now they’ll share another with this unique experience.
“For me, being 35, this is like the greatest thing ever. I absolutely understand that this is bonus time for me in my career,” Gallup said. “If you would have told me five years ago that when I was 35 that I would be playing in this tournament on ESPN for $2 million, I’d say this is the greatest thing ever. So for me, it’s just a great way for me to get back in the gym and get back in shape and get that competitive fire again. And to have the roster that we have makes it even better. So I’ve just been totally excited.”
If you watch
Who: Team Fredette vs. Team Utah (Utah Alumni)
What: First round
When: 7 p.m. July 15
Where: Las Vegas
Breaking down The Basketball Tournament
Teams: 64 squads broken into four regions (Northeast, South, Midwest and West)
How they got in: Nine teams were selected from each region based on the number of votes they accumulated through noon June 1. Six other teams per region were added as at-large selections and one team from each region made the field from a play-in jamboree. Anyone 18 or older was eligible to enter a team or play on one.
Purse and breakdown: Winning team gets $2 million in winner-takes-all format, with 10 percent going to fans – those who voted and recruited other voters to help the team get into the tournament – and 90 percent to the general manager, coaches, boosters and players. The top fan – the one who accumulated the most votes for the team – wins $20,000, while the next four top fans will net $10,000 each, the following 15 will get $4,000 and the 80 after that will receive $1,000 apiece.
Television coverage: Regional round games will be available on ESPN3 July 8-9 and July 15-16, Super 16 games will be shown on ESPN and ESPN2 July 20-23, and the semifinals (7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Aug. 1) and championship (7 p.m. Aug. 3) will be shown on ESPN.