By: Austin Seal
Somewhere between the rehearsal dinner and the marriage vows, Jordan Henriquez wanted to take his boys to a basketball court.
Former K-State men’s basketball player Nino Williams got married in Kansas City and the guest list included many names Henriquez will coach later this summer.
He will be on the sidelines for Purple & Black, a team of K-State men’s basketball alumni competing in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) for a million dollar prize on ESPN.
The KC opportunity earlier this summer was too good to pass up.
“We had a two-day mini camp there with about five or six of us,” said Henriquez. “We had some gyms and a really good trainer who could let us into a gym. It was a good opportunity to come after that.”
TBT began in 2014, a summer showcase for former college and NBA players with eye-catching prize money, a hook – the Elam ending used in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game – and an ESPN deal that included games throughout Country will radiate.
For Henriquez, the opportunity is a little more personal.
“It’s about regrouping, sharing memories and expanding our friendships,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. Everyone goes their own way after graduation, whether it’s basketball or another job. That gives us a reason to join forces.”
The 2021 roster includes former K-State men’s basketball players Curtis Kelly, Martavious Irving, Thomas Gipson, DJ Johnson, Justin Edwards, Cartier Diarra, Kamau Stokes and Ron Freeman.
Purple & Black last competed at TBT in 2019, but the squad has been a regular at the tournament, with the 2017 team doing the kind of run that keeps former ‘cats’ coming back.
That year, Purple & Black crossed the Peoria Regional beating the Canton Bulldogs and a team of Iowa State alumni before their run ended in the Super 16 of the Brooklyn tournament.
Gipson was a big part of that team as K-State alumnus made TBT a staple of his offseason plans during his six-year professional basketball career in Europe and Mexico.
“It was nice to have a mix of the older generation who don’t say they are old, but the people who were here before mixed with some fresh talent,” he said. “It’s coming back now that people like me are seen as the older generation of ex-K-State players. I’m just happy to be back playing with these guys. That’s what makes TBT so special.”
Gipson and Irving will be the veterans of Purple & Black this summer, while players like Stokes and Diarra make up the younger generation of former Wildcats in the team’s 12-man roster announced earlier this month.
That gives Purple & Black a pair of players from the K-State teams of 2010 and 2018 who reached the Elite Eight.
And every former wildcat on the team has been trained by the K-State head coach Bruce Weber, the kind of togetherness that makes Henriquez’s life easier.
“Everyone played for Coach and it shows how well Coach has kept that bond between us,” said Henriquez. “We did our part too, but Coach did the little things, be it inviting us back to camps or giving us the opportunity to go back to games and watch them practice. Things like that have helped our friendships and relationships down the line. “
Purple & Black will start TBT in Wichita on July 16 with a first-round matchup against Omaha Blue Crew, a team of Creighton alumni.
Henriquez is also the team’s GM and is responsible for organizing a squad of former wildcats stationed around the world during the basketball season, from Gipson in Turkey to Stokes in Sweden.
To complete the roster, Henriquez recruited four more players whom he met during his basketball career.
Marquis Addison, Missouri Southern State is a Purple & Black veteran and longtime friend of former K-State player Will Spradling. Other players include Trevor Gaskins (Ole Miss / Louisiana Tech) and Moses Morgan (DePaul / Cal State Fullerton), former Henriquez teammates.
Marvin Clark (Michigan State / St. John’s) was a player Henriquez met as a K-State recruit.
Henriquez recently completed his sophomore season as a member of the K-State men’s basketball coaching staff, a two-year position as graduate student manager.
As he plans the next step in his coaching career, Henriquez will focus solely on the sidelines for Purple & Black this summer.
“That was probably the hardest decision for me,” he said. “But since I know guys like Thomas Gipson and DJ Johnson are in their prime, are there every season and make money for their families, it was good to give it up. I know how hard you go and what you can do for this team. “
Everyone has the same goal this summer.
“You have to understand that these are guys who play overseas and guys who are ex-professionals. This is high-level basketball,” said Gipson. “We prepare for every game as if it were a real, professional game. I learned that at the last tournament. Are we here to just hang out? Or are we here to win a million dollars?”