Rutgers alumni looking to honor Jimmy V both on and off the court in TBT 2019

 

By: Jake Peter & Josh Brown | @jakepeter_ @josh_brown31


A group of Rutgers alums hope to 'Play for Jimmy V' this summer

In his five years at Rutgers as a player and assistant coach (1964-69), Jim Valvano didn’t have much to celebrate.

The Scarlet Knights were an independent school, so there was no chance of winning a conference title. They never made the NCAA Tournament. There were a couple of NIT appearances sprinkled in, but the squad never finished higher than third place.

Despite this, Valvano is one of the most influential figures in Rutgers history.

Upon leaving Piscataway, Jimmy V went on to coach at Johns Hopkins, UConn, Bucknell, Iona, and NC State. After leading the Wolfpack to the 1983 NCAA championship, he famously ran on the court searching for a player a hug. And, while it was certainly a milestone moment for Rutgers to have an alum win the Big Dance, it’s not even that accomplishment that puts him in the pantheon of Scarlet Knight greats.

 

In June 1992, Jimmy V was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of glandular cancer. With his health in decline the following March, Jimmy V was awarded the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs. In front of an awe-inspired crowd, Valvano announced the formation of his non-profit, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and gave one of the most famous speeches in American sports history.

 

That’s where Alex Neumann comes into play.

A former Rutgers manager, Neumann entered a Scarlet Knights alumni team into the TBT 2017 Jamboree. Despite a late comeback effort, the team lost its first game, 74-71, to the Silver Spring’s Willows Runners. Just as the team started its TBT journey, it came to a crashing end.

“We thought we really did field a  great team,” said Neumann, “and we lost in absolutely devastating fashion. We made a huge comeback at the end of the game and we really thought we had it. We still think about it now because of how terrible it was.”

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After taking last summer off, Neumann decided to give it another crack in TBT 2019. That’s when it dawned on him: why not play for Jimmy V? After calling the V Foundation and getting their blessing, he was all ready to go.

“It’s a great foundation and they do a ton of good work,”  said Neumann. “Just to be able to play for such a great foundation, with all the great work they do, is something that would be really cool for us. If we were able to win and donate a portion of the winnings, that would be something we’d be really proud of.”

“He’s such an inspiring guy,” Neumann added. “The way that he inspired so many people -  that’s a huge reason why everyone at Rutgers looks at him as such an important figure. To be able to play for that foundation and have him as our motivating factor for playing in the tournament and winning, that’ll be something that’s really great for us.”

If Playing for Jimmy V wins TBT, the team will donate $50,000, or 2.5% of their winnings, to the V Foundation.

The squad currently has six players committed, including two Rutgers alumni in power forward DeShawn Freeman and point guard Corey Sanders. They’re talking to several other former Scarlet Knights as well as players from nearby northeast schools.

“We have some big names that we’re working on that we don’t want to get anyone excited about yet until it’s officially finalized,” said Neumann, “but we do have some really talented guys that we think will really help us. If we can lock it down and get them on the roster, we really do think we can make a legit run and win this thing. We really think we’re going to have one of the better rosters in this tournament.”

Playing for Jimmy V will be coached by Rutgers alums Matt Johnston and Vinny Vetrone. Like Neumann, both were managers for the team during their time in Piscataway. With three months until tip-off, the trio have two main goals: build out the roster and raise some money for the V Foundation.

“We want to thank them for doing what they’re doing for us,” Neumann said of the V Foundation. “We’re planning on raising money for them regardless of whether we win the tournament or not. We want to give back to them.”

Photo credit V Foundation for Cancer Research