Bryce Brown is back in orange and blue.
Of course, it isn’t the same. He’s not suiting up for Auburn again, and he can’t. Instead, this is War Tampa, an unaffiliated and un-endorsed summer team that has just a handful of alums on the roster and that has happened to catch some fan attention.
It’s not the same. But it is something.
And it could be the start of something even more.
Brown and the crew dubbed War Tampa are set to play Saturday on ESPN in the first round of The Basketball Tournament, which is a prize-money, in-quarantine event that has run since 2014 and this year is being held in the most unusual of circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brown and his teammates were tested with at-home kits this week, and they are set to travel today to Columbus, Ohio, where they’ll be tested Monday, where they’ll play out the tournament starting July 4, and where TBT has even built a basketball court in the ballroom of the hotel where they’ll all be shut off from the world.
But it may have only been in those unusual circumstances that a player like Brown found himself back in orange and blue, and it may only have been these unprecedented times that made Auburn-starved Auburn fans so anxious to watch this tournament.
And, at least, this could be the mix that leads to a new tradition for Auburn basketball alumni to participate in, and for Auburn fans to enjoy in summers to come.
The opponent War Tampa plays Saturday is called House of ’Paign, and it boasts itself to be an Illinois alumni team with the name coming from the university’s home in Champaign, Ill. In the next round, a team of Ohio State alums, Carmen’s Crew, awaits the winner. Since its inception, TBT has meant something special for alumni players getting the gang back together. The Notre Dame Fighting Alumni won the first TBT in 2014. Tennessee alums put together a Ballinteers team that won’t be playing this year but could play in another year. Clemson, Purdue, Marshall, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, Dayton and Marquette are all unofficially represented in this year’s field.
The concept hadn’t really reached Auburn or caught fire on the Plains just yet, but this War Tampa team in these circumstances could be what does it — and Brown could be just the superstar player to help ignite that fire.
There are four former Auburn players on the War Tampa team. Brown is teaming up again with his classmate and fellow senior from the Final Four run, Horace Spencer. They’re getting together with LaRon Smith and Desean Murray and a roster of others pieced together from other schools from across the country.
Of those Auburn players, Brown is the most popular. He was a sharp-shooting superstar during Auburn’s first-ever climb to the Final Four. He had a stellar season in the G-League this year with the Maine Red Claws, and all things considered, may not have been playing in TBT this summer if it wasn’t for the coronavirus shutdown.
But he’s with the squad now this time around and with him have come even more Auburn fans, who should be eager to cheer on Auburn alumni teams in prize-money tournaments in the future.
The alums are ready for it. Since this blew up in Auburn circles, several former Auburn players have committed to try to play together in the future. This team was called Tampa 20/20 before all the Auburn fans started jumping on board, and club changed its name and its team colors just to welcome them. TJ Lang, New Williams and Mustapha Heron all showed interest in playing with the team in the future when offering their support for the team recently on social media.
Auburn is like a family, Auburn people always say, and with a star player of Brown’s ability setting the example, there could be a future in more family reunions like this one that’ll give Auburn fans one more reason to celebrate in the summer months.
War Tampa and House of ’Paign will tip off as the third of four games being played Saturday. Tipoff times have yet to be announced but the entire tournament will be aired on either ESPN or ESPN2.