Sideline Cancer Boosted by 1,000 Point Gift

 

By: Patrick Ronan | @pk_ronan


There’s no denying that the $2 million, winner-take-all prize for winning TBT is part of what makes The Basketball Tournament so unique. But what truly makes TBT special is seeing teams come together to play for more than just money.

That’s the case for Sideline Cancer, a team created by GM Billy Clapper that plays in honor of the Griffith Family Foundation. The team took the same name as the Foundation’s signature initiative, Sideline Cancer®, which was started in 2012 by a motivated group of students to help advance pancreatic cancer research. To date, the organization has donated $260,000 to research efforts.

Clapper, a former walk-on at Youngstown State, coached college ball at the Division I, Division II and Division III level for 10 years, including six years as the head coach for Penn State Altoona. He currently coaches at high school powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Clapper graduated from the same high school as the Griffith’s sons, Jordan and Jamie, and has known the Griffith family for 17 years.

In 2014, while coaching at Penn State Altoona, Clapper’s team invited Mrs. Griffith over to present her with a small donation from an event they had held.

“About three weeks later I got an email that said there was going to be this tournament,” Clapper said. “I looked at it and said no. Didn’t really touch it for four days. Then I opened it back up, reviewed it, called up one of my friends and said what if we played for charity?”

Clapper then reached out to another friend, John Boyer, who also graduated from the same high school and played professionally in Germany. Once Boyer was in, they went to the Griffiths with their idea.

“We went to the Griffith family and asked if we could do this,” Clapper said. “She basically gave us her blessing and look where we are now.”

The Sideline Cancer team was born and has since been one of the staples of TBT – one of just four teams to have played in every TBT since the tournament’s inception in 2014.

This year, we’ve seen Sideline Cancer’s selfless attitude spread to their fans too. Shane Cafferty had one of the best brackets in the 2017 Bracket Challenge and was rewarded with the third pick in the Bracket Challenge Prize Draft. While Cafferty could have chosen a number of prizes that would have put cash directly into his pocket, he decided to go a different route. He chose the ability to add 1,000 fan support points to any team of his choice and awarded the 1,000 points to Sideline Cancer.

“Billy [Clapper] has been a great friend of mine for a long time and he has done quite a lot to help me out over the years," Cafferty said. “Anytime I can help him out and support a good cause at the same time, it’s a no brainer for me. I wish Sideline Cancer the best of luck this year in the tournament.”

Clapper said that Cafferty has been invested in Sideline Cancer for a while, and has even helped him go out and get votes.

“He knows how much it means to me,” Clapper said. “It’s exciting to have friends that are willing to do stuff like that. That small sacrifice is a big gift to us.”

Clapper says the added 1,000 points will take some of the pressure of fan support recruiting off of their team and allow them to focus more energy on things like player recruiting and being active on social media. But the biggest advantage of the 1,000 point gift in Clapper's eyes is the added exposure it brings, as Sideline Cancer is now at the top of the fan points leaderboard with the likes of Team Arkansas, Louisiana United and GaelNation.

As for the TBT2018 Sideline Cancer roster, Clapper kept things pretty tight-lipped, saying that all he could divulge at this time is that they have four players from last year’s team returning.

“Some of our other guys are guys that have played together and were pro teammates,” Clapper said. “That chemistry is huge.”

As for TBT2018 expectations, Clapper is confident that this is Sideline Cancer’s best team yet.

“It all comes down to having guys that are healthy and having guys that will be there,” Clapper said. “Then you have to look at your matchups.”

With all the moving parts of assembling a team, collecting fan support and promoting their cause, Clapper wants to make sure the players aren’t forgotten.

“If they win TBT, part of that money is going to the foundation,” Clapper said. “A guy could play for another team and try to win more money… so every guy that decides to play for us is playing with some sort of sacrifice right there.”

While the money is certainly a big motivator, Clapper says the number one goal is still to raise as much awareness as possible for the Griffith Family Foundation – and knows that winning is the best way to do that.

“It’s just about finding a cure. Wherever that starts. From where we were four years to where we are now… our presence has really grown,” Clapper said. “We’re hoping that we get the opportunity to continue to have that growth.”

To find out more on the Griffith Family Foundation and how you can contribute to pancreatic cancer research, visit https://griffithfamilyfoundation.org/!