Basketball team

Basketball team sets out to hunt for million dollar prize in Albany

ALBANY — The million-dollar chase brought together a talented assortment of basketball players in the gymnasium at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Thursday morning.

There was 6-foot-7 forward Malcolm Miller, who won an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors three years ago. He was accompanied by 6-5 forward Jarrell Brantley, who spent two seasons with the Utah Jazz and last week played for the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Summer League.

They’ve reunited with pros who have played around the world as the Friday Beers team, who will compete in the $1 million basketball tournament, entering its ninth summer. It plays a 64-team NCAA-style format broadcast on ESPN platforms.

“Everyone wants to walk away with their $1 million cup and having a good sponsor like Friday Beers this year really helps,” said Miller, a Holy Cross graduate who has played in Italy and Puerto Rico this season. “You get pick-up races at home, but having highly regulated official matches against some of the best competition in the world…we’re all having fun, but we’ve all got that chip on our shoulder to try and get that $1 million .”

Saratoga Springs resident AJ Mahar is the general manager of Friday Beers, which was known as Armored Athlete before it struck a sponsorship deal this year with Friday Beers, which bills itself as “a comedy platform and a lifestyle brand”.

With a roster of 11 players, Friday Beers held a mini-camp in Albany for four days this week. They alternated practices between The College of Saint Rose, University at Albany, and ACPHS. They will play their first match at noon on Friday against Mental Toughness at SRC Arena and the Events Center in Syracuse to stream live on ESPN3.

Led by head coach Adam Ross, Friday Beers must win three games at Syracuse, possibly against defending champion Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse alumni) on Monday, to reach championship week July 28-August 2 at the ‘University of Dayton.

“We have the most wins of any team in TBT history without winning it all,” Mahar said. “So it’s a bit bittersweet… We’re trying to make our time. This team, in particular, is very excited about a lot of older guys, veterans, physical guys, guys who can shoot , a bit of athletics.”

Several Friday Beers players have experience in the capital region. Guards Derek Needham (Fairfield) and Sean Armand (Iona) played Siena in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Brantley played on a College of Charleston team that beat Siena 83-58 in 2018 at the Times Union Center.

Brantley played in Russia this season, leaving after the country invaded Ukraine. He then spent time in the G League and Puerto Rico before joining the NBA Summer League. Now he’s trying to mingle with new teammates on Friday Beers.

“I’m just trying to learn chemistry, learning what people are comfortable with, their communications, their mannerisms,” said Brantley, making his TBT debut. “We all know how to play basketball. Just trying to learn from each other off the court, more so, I think is more important.”

With Friday Beers, Brantley plays with his brother, Jamaal, who just won a title in Albany. Jamaal Brantley was with the Shreveport Mavericks, who defeated the Albany Patroons for the Basketball League title on July 7 at the Washington Avenue Armory.

“It was awesome,” Jamaal Brantley said. “To take a trip to New York, down the road, and win a championship, that was the greatest feeling ever.”

Miller, who has played for Friday Beers since their inception in 2015, knows the feeling of reaching basketball’s ultimate prize. He was part of the Raptors team that defeated Golden State in six games for the 2019 NBA title, bringing Toronto its first NBA championship.

“Words can’t even describe it,” Miller said. “The ring itself is huge. It’s one of those you have to put in the safe. You can’t use it.”