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TBT: Team Challenge ALS

By Tom Ballato

In the past few years in the TBT (The Basketball Tournament) Tournament, we have seen Team Challenge ALS compete at the highest level. They came one basket away from taking down the now four-time champions Overseas Elite to win the two million dollar prize. Those who don’t know what the TBT Tournament is, five on five winner-take-all basketball tournament consisting of former college and NBA players and top overseas players.

Team Challenge ALS was created by Sean Marshall, who played basketball at Boston College. While at Boston College, he roomed with Pete Frates, a baseball star at the college. Pete Frates was diagnosed with ALS at 27 years old and has done so much to raise awareness for this disease, including creating the Ice Bucket Challenge with his friend Pat Quinn. He has raised millions of dollars to help research and find a cure someday for ALS. Team Challenge ALS plays for Pete and all those living with ALS.

We talked with Sean Marshall, founder of Team Challenge ALS, to find out what the team is all about and his career.

You created Team Challenge ALS because Pete Frates was your roommate at Boston College, where you played in college. Besides being a great athlete, could you describe Pete and your time with him in college? 

Marshall: I met Pete freshman year, and we were friends throughout our four years there. He has always been someone who could positively change your mood. If I was down, he always found a way to turn that around. He has that effect on everyone. It doesn’t surprise me that he has done so much for ALS awareness because he’s the type of person that will accomplish what he set out to accomplish. I’m honored to play for someone so admirable.

You’ve been quoted as saying, “We play for a community.” How did you find a roster willing to sacrifice possibly earning money in the TBT Tournament for this great cause?

Marshall: Everyone that has played for our team I’ve hand-selected and have a personal relationship with. That was my number one goal: to form a team of great athletes but, more importantly, great character guys. Some of the guys on our team I’ve known for 15 years, and it wasn’t a challenge to get them on board to represent something bigger than ourselves.

What have you learned since creating this team about people living with ALS, your supporters, yourself, and others?

Marshall: The first year was an amazing journey making it to the finals. Through the process, we learned that the team was much bigger than just Pete. There were so many people that were connected to ALS that were supporting us and putting their hope in us. After the first year, it helped us realize that we had to involve more people in the ALS community. That’s why I came up with the idea to have different names of ALS patients on the back of our jerseys this year. The disease absolutely sucks, and what I’ve learned is that these people are so strong to fight ALS. They inspire me with every story I hear. I’ll continue to put out a fighting team in their honor.

Will Team Challenge ALS return in 2019, and can we expect and roster additions?

Marshall: We are returning for 2019 TBT. We made the final eight this year, but it was a major let down because we felt we had a team to win it. We didn’t click the same way we did the previous summer. At this point, we are unsure what additions we will be making, but I am sure that we will put together a team that people will be proud of.

You’ve played professionally overseas in Greece, France, Turkey, etc. Where will you be playing this upcoming season, and what do you expect to bring to the team?

Marshall: I have not signed with a team for this year yet. After sitting down with my wife, we decided that I would spend a little bit more time home this summer and sign later than I usually do. It’s a risk to pass up on jobs early, but I believe everything works out the way it’s supposed to. I will sign soon when the right opportunity presents itself.

If you get a chance, follow Team Challenge ALS @TMchallengeALS and donate to support ALS.

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