The Banner Boys will definitely be back for 2018’s 64-team The Basketball Tournament (TBT) next summer but with a new brand and a new look as Team Facing Addiction.

As the team’s general manager, I’m excited to announced that our second TBT appearance will be as Team Facing Addiction. It’s also my honor to announce that in addition to our star lineup of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alumni, the outstanding walk-on will be Jalin Marshall, wide receiver with the New York Jets.

I’m making these moves in hopes that the cause we play for—raising awareness for substance use disorders, addiction and recovery—can get a more national spotlight during the tournament. Don’t get me wrong, we put out a successful message in my home state of Ohio last year. We put a positive light on efforts to face the opioid epidemic in the Buckeye state and celebrated recovery. But, although we got about 20 press pickups, we also faced a lot of skepticism and in my mind, far too many people were slow to get on board about the cause.

Playing as Team Facing Addiction, we hope to build a bigger story. Obviously, we hope to go deeper into the tournament too. Facing Addiction is inheriting a team of current pro players and all-time greats from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. We finished 20th overall in the country last year, which was our first year. Better play, having a #20 national ranking and with the nation’s leading addiction non-profit will score more airtime on ESPN as well.

Team Facing Addiction

Plus, Jalin’s notoriety and celebrity will catapult Facing Addiction’s story. We are so thankful he’s on board. Because he’s from Middletown, Ohio, and went to Ohio State, he sure knows how our state has been devastated by the crisis.

Jalin and I were talking recently about the epidemic and wondering what we could do to help elevate the issue. He told me he’s grateful for the opportunity to provide a voice for those who don’t feel like they have one. “I can be that motivation, I can be that light to everyone dealing with this issue. I feel my purpose in life is bigger than just right now.”

Then I told him that, come next spring and summer, he’d better be ready to play basketball like he never has before, Jalin told me not to worry, he’d be ready to play. He said, “I’m looking forward to competing with you and the team. I know how much this means to you and that alone motivates me to be highly involved and encouraged to bring this championship home–not only for the money, but also to show those facing addiction around the country that we care.”

Last year’s TBT story was of Team ALS’ general manager missing the tournament-winning free throw. I said that Facing Addiction’s GM was going to be focused on better conditioning and the gym.  I intend to be in the best shape I can be because I want our team to be the 2018 Story of Summer.  That $2 million winner-take-all prize will help create a lot of awareness!