Former area basketball standouts sign on for Ballers Alumni tournament
By: Andrew John
Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | 1:30 AM
Former Wilkinsburg standout Taz Williams has dreamed of setting up an annual alumni tournament that would showcase former basketball greats from the Pittsburgh area.
After dipping his foot in the water last year when close to 1,400 people showed up to watch an alumni game between Penn Hills and Wilkinsburg during Mother’s Day weekend, Williams believes the time is now to strike with the Ballers Alumni tournament.
The tournament, which was named after Williams’ nickname, will feature eight teams and games over three weekends in April. The tournament will conclude with a championship at 4 p.m. April 28, at Penn Hills.
“Before the Wilkinsburg/Penn Hills game, I already wanted to do a tournament. I wanted to start small first to make sure we could get people excited to come,” Williams said.
“We had so much feedback from the game, and it was such a success that we decided to have the Ballers Alumni tournament.”
Alumni teams involved include Penn Hills, Woodland Hills, Oliver, Wilkinsburg, Allderdice, Schenley, Gateway and McKeesport.
Aliquippa and Beaver Falls also will have an alumni game, but they aren’t part of the bracket. That game will take place at 4 p.m. April 27 at Aliquippa. The winner will receive an automatic bid to next year’s tournament.
Penn Hills will open against Woodland Hills at 3 p.m. April 13 at Woodland Hills. Penn Hills captain Drew Schifino is excited to get back on the court after seeing action in last year’s alumni game. Schifino has been one of the key organizers to aid Williams, who resides in Dallas, Texas, in building the tournament.
“We wanted to play a rival,” Schifino said. “I think a lot of people want to see Penn Hills and Woodland Hills go against each other since we were rivals back in the day. We all know each other, and we thought it would be a better matchup in the first game of the tournament.”
The Penn Hills team will feature Schifino, Marques Hamilton, Bryon Knight, Eric Roberson, Rob Agurs, Justin Hamilton, David Harvey, Andre Anthony, Akida McClain and Gerald Warrick.
Each team will have one high school senior on the roster. Penn Hills will be represented by senior Tyree Spencer.
“I feel like I’m in better shape, and I feel like a lot of people haven’t seen us play in awhile so it’s good to play in front of people who grew up watching you play,” Schifino said. “It feels good to suit up again and play with guys you grew up with and played basketball with a decade or two decades ago.”
Williams will lead Wilkinsburg in an opening-round matchup against Oliver after the Penn Hills game.
Allderdice will face Schenley, while Gateway and McKeesport will follow in a doubleheader April 14 at Penn Hills that starts at 3 p.m.
The semifinals will take place April 20 in a doubleheader at Penn Hills that starts at 3 p.m.
The tournament champions will split a cash prize that will be based off ticket sales.
The tournament will feature former greats Steve Breaston, Jonathan Baldwin, Lance Jeter and Gilmore Cummings to name a few.
“It just shows that sports is very powerful and keeping the community safe and strong. It brings the community together, and this is something that a sporting event can do,” Williams said.
“It’s about the kids, the pride and team spirit. It becomes harder in the City of Pittsburgh with us being one of the more violent cities within the last 10 to 15 years.”
Williams explained there will be giveaways, a live DJ, celebrity guests and more during what he calls an experience and not just a basketball game.
The games will have the feel like you’re watching a game at Rucker Park with the play-by-playing announcing.
A $20 ticket will allow access to a doubleheader at each site. Penn Hills athletic director Stephanie Strauss and Woodland Hills director of facilities Bob Finney were instrumental in providing gym time for the tournament.
The event has been promoted by Levels Agency, which is run by Elijah Hill and his brother, Elisha. Tickets can be purchased at BallersAlumni.eventbrite.com.
Proceeds from the tournament will go to the FCAA AAU program.