For Tampa 20/20, additions of Auburn alumni has changed the culture

 

By: Gabe Maturo


Four Auburn alumni have signed with Tampa 20/20

It's the year 2018 and the last time Auburn made the NCAA Tournament, Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer, and Desean Murray were all in elementary school. That was back in 2003. For the next 15 years, Auburn watched the Big Dance from home.

All of this was about to change. Bryce Brown is now the team’s point guard and averages almost 16 ppg. Desean Murray starts at forward and contributes 10.1 ppg and 6.7 rpg. Horace Spencer is the big man in the middle and gives the team a presence inside the paint and on the glass.

After making the tournament as a 4-seed, Auburn came out of the first round victorious against College of Charleston. In the second round, the Tigers fell to Clemson. Despite the loss, Brown, Spencer, and Murray all knew that the basketball culture at Auburn would never be the same.

Just a year later in 2019, the War Eagles find themselves making another NCAA tournament appearance as a 5-seed.

Although Murray had decided to transfer to Western Kentucky, Brown and Spencer still lead the team and hope to go on a tournament run for the ages.

And that they did. Auburn basketball has now made their first Final Four in school history.

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The team started the tournament by beating 12-seed New Mexico State. What happened next was a story that Auburn fans will never forget.

In the second round, Auburn beat number-one seed Kansas to the tune of Bryce Brown’s 25 points.

In the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, they knocked off blue bloods Kentucky and North Carolina to find themselves in the Final Four.

Although they ended up losing in controversial fashion to Virginia, the legacy that Bryce Brown and Horace Spencer helped build that year will never be forgotten.

Now, Brown and Spencer are reuniting with Desean Murray and former Tiger LaRon Smith on Tampa 20/20. The four of them will look to bring that War Eagle mentality to TBT.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing my old teammates again and having fun playing with them,” said Spencer. “I find it to be really fun and good for us to gauge how good we all are now, and how good our chemistry still is, and also to see who has developed the most out of all of us.”

“It feels great,” added Smith. “It’s gonna be a reunion for us. I’m looking forward to competing with the guys that I used to play with.”

These Auburn additions help mark a new era for Tampa 20/20. With his best roster yet and a new identity, GM Matt Moschella hopes to make a deep TBT run.

The road to get to this point, however, was not an easy one.

In TBT 2018, Tampa 20/20 beat Cancer Plus 1 in a play-in game. In the first round of the actual tournament, they were quickly disposed of by Ram Nation.

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A year later, Tampa 20/20 lost a close affair to Team CP3, 79-76, despite holding an 18-point lead in the third quarter.

Moschella now hopes that his newly acquired talent will help them take a huge step in the right direction.

“Last year was a big motivator for us,” said Moschella. “We’ve now got a lot of guys who can run and gun and really play with the style that we like to play. I think this team can make a Quarterfinals or Semifinals appearance. We just want to win and to make a step in the right direction and continue the progression of this team. This year I believe that we definitely will win some games and make a run for it.”

Looking back on their first TBT game in 2018, the progression of Tampa 20/20 has been remarkable. 

“From the first year, guys like Bryce Brown wouldn’t even consider playing for us and now they’re on the team,” said Moschella. “My twitter went from 160 followers to where it is now. We’ve got a lot of fans now and people that want to see us play in the tournament and win games.”

“I see tremendous progression,” added LaRon Smith, a member of the team since 2018. “From the first year to now, the improvement is unbelievable. We have made improvements at every position.”

One of the team’s biggest recruiters was Smith himself. 

“LaRon Smith was our biggest recruiter for this,” said Moschella. “He connected us to everybody.”

Smith was able to bring in an abundance of talent between his former Auburn teammates and SEC rivals, including Brown, Murray Walter Hodge (Florida), and Justin Gray (Texas Tech). 

 

“I felt like there were missing pieces that we needed,” said Smith. “I am a good teammate and a better friend. I’ve always kept in close contact with all of my friends that I came across playing basketball and I just wanted to get some of them to come out and play with us.”

“Playing with Desean, Bryce, and LaRon is something I really wanted to do,” added Horace Spencer. “I saw LaRon and my former teammates on the team and then I figured I would go hoop for this team and use the chance to workout and play with my guys.”

One of the biggest changes to Tampa 20/20 has been the fanbase and support behind them. In previous years, the Tampa 20/20 fanbase was virtually nonexistent

Since bringing on his Auburn additions, however, Moschella and his players have noticed a big change in the amount of support from the War Eagle fans.

“When I first got to Tampa 20/20, the Auburn fan base wasn’t really present,” said Smith. “This year the fanbase has already showed out and supported us a lot. The support is unbelievable.”

 

“The Auburn fanbase is one of the best ones,” added Spencer. “The fact that we’re gonna have the Auburn fans supporting us in this tournament is gonna make it feel like [college again].”

Now, with four former Tigers on the roster, assumptions can be made that a War Eagle alumni team will make an appearance in TBT in the near future.

“One hundred percent, I feel like next year we will have a team,” said Smith. “Right now I’m working on getting some guys for next year who will want to come out and play.”

What is certain right now is that Moschella and company are going to draw a lot of attention if they make it in the field of 24.

“I want to make a run and win it."