Juilian Gamble & Kenny Kadji Competing For $500,000

JULIAN GAMBLE dipped his shoulder and spun around Kenny Kadji in a flash. Gamble planted both feet, quickly rose toward the rim and threw down a powerful, emphatic dunk. Slam.

Kadji couldn't help but scream while watching his former teammate from the University of Miami.

"Don't bring down the rim, Jul'," Kadji yelled in excitement during a team practice at Aspiring Champions Gym near King of Prussia. "That'll cut into our winnings, man."

Two minutes later, Marcus Lewis, the 2014 ESPN College Slam Dunk Champion from Eastern Kentucky University, took flight from the foul line and almost dunked on Garrius Adams from the 2013 ACC championship Miami team.

Half a dozen players and two coaches filled the gym for some early practice on Wednesday for simply dubbed "The Basketball Tournament," which started yesterday at Philadelphia University. The championship will be June 28 at a site to be determined.

Thirty-two teams will overrun the gym this weekend for the chance at winning $500,000, which is then split among the members of the winning team. John Mugar, founder of the event, said the process began 3 years ago to establish a new tournament in Philadelphia.

"It's being financed from an investing group out of Boston," Mugar said. "The reason they're investing is because we hope to establish this as something that is broadcast-worthy, and we would like to give out the premise of an open basketball tournament and make it valuable to sponsors or anyone interested."

The notable teams in the field include one composed of members of the 2009 Villanova team that reached the Final Four, including Reggie Redding, Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham, who now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Another team is made up of former Saint Joseph's stars; another squad includes eight former players from City 6 teams, such as La Salle's Dalton Pepper and Aaric Murray; and a Cornell team that made the Sweet 16 in 2010.

Another team named "Rep Your City" is headlined by Delaware 87er Aquille Carr, Lewis, Gamble, Adams and Kadji. Matt Gibson, their coach and a writer for Dime Magazine, brought his team to Philly 2 days early to get some practice in. Gibson said he got his team together because of some connections he made through journalism.

"After 2 days of practice, we'll be in great shape to make a serious run in the tournament," Gibson said. "No one picked us to win the tournament, but we have a confident bunch and there are clusters of guys that have played together in college and professionally. Having some type of organization in an event like this can go a long way."

Mugar thinks that a tournament such as this, which promotes the idea of "team basketball" more than anything else, could be a mainstay in Philly if received well.

"Realistically, and as a basketball fan, I want to see how team basketball levels up with supremely talented players," Mugar said. "Having a winner-take-all prize really puts the emphasis on team basketball. It's purely paid to win. There's no emphasis on statistics. The box scores don't mean as much as the final score overall. I can't say I have a favorite, but I am interested in how it plays out."

For more information, visit www.thetournament.com.

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