Fighting Alumni has charity in mind

Posted: June 10, 2014

FOR AT LEAST one of the 32 teams entered in the winner-take-all Basketball Tournament held at Philadelphia University this weekend, a chance at the $500,000 prize wasn't just for personal needs.

For the Fighting Alumni - a team made up of former Notre Dame basketball players, including Germantown Academy grad Ryan Ayers and Penn Charter grad Rob Kurz - it was for a bigger battle.

If Ayers, Kurz and company win the cash prize after facing Team Barstool - which includes former NBA players Dahntay Jones, Matt Walsh, Shavlik Randolph and Seton Hall guard Andre Barrett - they will donate some of the money to Coaches vs. Cancer, a charity that Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has made a priority for his players.

"Cancer affects everyone's lives," said Kurz, sporting an emerald team T-shirt provided by the tournament. "We all have family and friends that have been affected by cancer and we'd like to give something back. Coach Brey has done a tremendous amount of work for Coaches vs. Cancer. He was just honored by [ESPN's] Dick Vitale for his work with the charity. It'll be a nice tribute for him and it'll be good for the fight against cancer."

Kurz transferred to Penn Charter after two seasons at Germantown Academy with Ayers and eventually went to Notre Dame. After college, he spent a season with the Golden State Warriors in 2008-09 and has been playing in Europe since 2010.

Ayers played 4 years in South Bend before spending time in the NBA Developmental League and then playing overseas. Chris Thomas, a McDonald's All-American guard in 2001, believes everyone can be more energetic about giving to charity.

"All of us have to be more active," Thomas said. "But this might be our opportunity to show how much we do care, and charitable giving is always necessary and it's something that you can't overlook."

Russell Carter, a guard who played at Notre Dame from 2003-07, agreed that charitable giving is "their duty."

"Just being at Notre Dame from the time you step on campus, coach Brey gives you the principles of family," Carter said. "Through all the events, the banquets, wearing the sneakers and having [ESPN's] Jay Bilas come up, we have so much that we should give back because that's our duty as athletes, as coaches, as people."

Whether talking about philanthropy or basketball, Brey's influence on the Fighting Alumni players was evident.

After a weekend of games, the finalists, Fighting Alumni and Team Barstool, will play in the championship game on June 28 at a location to be determined by a fan voting process. But as far as Thomas is concerned, the opposition does not faze him.

"We expect to win," Thomas said. "We didn't come here to lose. If you didn't know, we're here now."

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