The setup for the upcoming 3X3U Tournament will be familiar for the three local ballers heading to San Antonio: Canisius' Jermaine Crumpton, St. Bonaventure's Matt Mobley and University at Buffalo's Wes Clark. It's 3-on-3, halfcourt, first to 21 wins.
"It's like a pickup setting," Crumpton said. 'Things that you do back home when you're with your friends."
The biggest difference? This time, money is on the line.
32 teams of graduating college seniors will compete in the three-day tournament, which kicks off Friday, for the opportunity to be compensated for their basketball skills for the first time in their lives.
Teams will earn $1,000 for every win in pool play, the quarterfinals and semifinals. The team that wins the championship wins $50,000 to split. That means each member of the title team is guaranteed at least $13,000. Since players are getting paid, only those who have exhausted their NCAA eligibility are able to play in 3X3U.
"If we were doing it just for fun or for a trophy, bragging rights, I think not a lot of players would go," Crumpton said. "They'd just keep their bodies fresh."
Teams are made up of four graduating seniors from the same conference, with every Division I conference represented. The squads were crafted by a 17-member selection committee consisting of some of the most respected journalists in college basketball.
Clark is playing on the Mid-American Conference team with Ohio's Mike Laster, Kent State's Kevin Zabo and Central Michigan's Cecil Williams. Crumpton will be joined on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team by a pair of Manhattan Jaspers, Zane Waterman and Rich Williams, and Fairfield's Tyler Nelson. Mobley is flanked by St. Louis' Davell Roby, Duquesne's Rene Castro-Caneddy and VCU's Jonathan Williams on the Atlantic 10 team.
There isn't much time to get adjusted to new teammates, but unlike a typical all-star game, most players will at least have experience playing against each other. Those midseason scouting reports will come in handy.
While the money is a nice draw, it isn't the only incentive to participate. For players from smaller conferences, the tournament is a great opportunity to get noticed on a larger stage. The pool play will be streamed around the world on Twitter. The semifinals, third-place game and championship are on ESPN2. It also helps that the tournament is taking place in San Antonio the same weekend the city hosts the Final Four.
Getting a run against players from the Power Seven conferences can be a huge boost for lesser-known players looking to jump to the professional level.
"There's probably going to be scouts and professional teams out there looking at players of that magnitude," Crumpton said. "You go out there and make some noise and boom. Your name can be thrown in. ... It's huge exposure."