SE: Purple and Black - Men's Basketball Players Reunite

Nine former Wildcat men’s basketball players are coming together with the hopes of winning big money at The Basketball Tournament. 

A team appropriately dubbed Purple and Black, this group of former Wildcats is made up of an all-star cast including Jacob Pullen (2007-11), Curtis Kelly (2009-11), Dominique Sutton (2007-10), Denis Clemente (2008-10), Jamar Samuels (2008-12), Rodney McGruder (2009-13), Jordan Henriquez (2009-13), Martavious Irving (2009-13) and Thomas Gipson (2011-2014). 

You may have had to take a second glance at those names, but don’t worry, you read them correctly. 

This Purple and Black team features K-State’s all-time leading scorer in Pullen (2,132 points), its top three leading defensive rebounders in Gipson (428), Samuels (420) and McGruder (400), and its top shot blocker in Henriquez (210). All together, the group scored a grand total of 9,324 combined points during their Wildcat careers and grabbed a combined total of 3,941 rebounds. 

The group features four of K-State’s 16 all-time 1,000 points scorers (Pullen, Clemente, Samuels and McGruder) while Pullen, Kelly and Clemente’s 37 games started during the 2010 season are the most in K-State history. 

It’s basically a reunion of the Wildcats’ 2010 Elite Eight squad (plus Gipson) together again. 

So, what exactly is The Basketball Tournament? 

Glad you asked. 

The Basketball Tournament, or TBT, is an open-application, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament that runs from July 16 through August 2. Anyone can enter, but you have to have the most online votes to earn a spot as one of TBT’s 64 teams. 

The tournament begins with regional competitions. Teams have to make it out of their region to make it to the Super 16 round from July 21-23 and to the Championship round from July 30-Aug. 2. 

But – and this is the coolest part – the teams that make it to the Super 16 and Championship rounds will have their games aired on ESPN and will be in the running for the grand prize: $2 million. 

“I’m very excited for it,” said Irving, who, along with Henriquez, came up with the idea for the Purple and Black team. “For a lot of us, it’s been a few years since we’ve played together. I haven’t played with JO in almost three years; it’s been quite a while. So it’s going to be awesome to get the gang back together again.” 

The voting for these teams opened last Friday, and, within just hours, K-State fans had already poured in their support. 

“I really wasn’t expecting all of it; it’s been so crazy,” said Gipson about the excitement Wildcat fans are showing for their team. “We had almost 2,000 votes in the first 12 hours. That speaks for itself. Everybody is really excited. I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people out for our games. It’s just a good feeling to see that team, with me included, back together. We want to make K-State alumni proud.” 

In the first week of voting, Purple and Black has the most fan votes (2,580) of all teams entered; the only team that comes close to Purple and Black is the Bluegrass Boys (Kentucky’s alumni team) with 1,051 votes. (Want to vote for Purple and Black? Click here!) 

The news about Purple and Black spread when Henriquez created a Twitter page for the team (@Purple_BlackTBT). It quickly accumulated followers. The fan excitement and response was so big that former team managers AJ Vinent (2009-13) and Brian Krueger (2008-12) joked with Henriquez about joining Purple and Black as managers. It’d be like old times, they said.  

“Jokingly I asked if they needed a manager, and (Henriquez) seriously responded to us asking if we would want to help them get it organized and be the team’s general managers,” explained Vinent. 

So far, Vinent said he’s been busy setting up the team’s website (you can check it out by clicking here), helping run the team’s Twitter page, organizing paperwork from each player and spreading the word around the K-State community among numerous other behind-the-scenes tasks. 

“I was around all of these guys year round (at K-State), and they are an entertaining group,” said Vinent. “I have kept in touch with some of the guys since my time as a manager, but now this has brought us all back together and it's been fun. It's going to be an exciting summer for everyone involved.” 

With stellar talent, solid management and passionate purple fans behind it, Purple and Black is a team that can be expected to make some serious noise this summer at The Basketball Tournament. 

“It’s going to be really cool to play with everyone again, because when I did play with those guys, I was young and inexperienced,” explained Gipson, the youngest player on the squad. “But now, I’m more matured and my game has evolved a long way. So just being back with that team, those players, it’s a great feeling. I feel extra confident about it, and I feel like we have a great chance to compete for the grand prize.”

Jordan Henriquez, Martavious Irving and Rodney McGruder during their senior day in Bramlage Coliseum. March, 2013


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