DawgTalk bites the College Park Boys in the inaugural ABL matchup

As nightfall descended upon the Xfinity Center in College Park, on Saturday, Maryland Terrapin and Georgetown Hoya fans were ready to pack the Pavilion for the first Alumni Basketball League (ABL) matchup between the College Park Boys and Dawg Talk.

College Park was buzzing the last few days as former Terps players such as Travis Garrison, Ekene Ibekwe, Byron Mouton, Melo Trimble, Greivis Vasquez, and Len Elmore were on campus.

The ABL announced many VIP guests on Twitter, including Elmore, Walt Williams, Joe Smith, Legendary voice of the Hoyas Rich Chivotkin, Michael Graham, Gene Smith, and others.

ABL co-founder and commissioner Kareem Rush is confident that sponsors will see this league’s value.

“I think now; sponsors can see we had the gym packed. We had a few conversations with corporate sponsors and media partners. I think once we package this up the right way, bringing back the former legends like Joe Smith and Walt Williams, Etan Thomas, guys like that come in and show their support for the league as well, I think we’re putting on a good product. I see bigger visions for us in 2023. Hopefully, we can knock out 4-6 games next year and continue to expand it.”

Rush has his sights set on a 16-team March Madness-style tournament bracket in another city like Miami or Vegas to see who the best alumni team is.

ABL co-founder and CEO Jake Jackson was very pleased with how things turned out and credited several colleagues for their relationship building in the DMV area.

“Jason Conley, one of our former teammates, and then Rick Goings and Marc Stern are from the area, and you can tell. They know everybody and got the right people to this game, from the announcers to the former and current players. We did a really, really, good job in a short amount of time. If you saw the arena tonight, it was completely packed, so from that standpoint, I don’t think it could’ve been a bigger success.”

Jackson was aware that the one-on-one matchups at the end of quarters to decide possession and timeout entertainment need some tweaking so that the fan experience is top-notch.

“This year was a one-game proof of concept. Next year, I think we’ll roll out 6-8 games in a similar exhibition style in different parts of the country. We’re already talking to two dozen teams. We’re going to be very selective. We want the support of the alumni associations, and we’re going to do exactly that. We’re going to bring the right players and the right teams together, that collegiate fandom to come together to have that experience one more time with these guys.”

The players wanted to put on a show for the fans and earn bragging rights in the DMV area hoops scene.

A key matchup to watch coming in was the guard play for both teams. Terps fans know that Anthony Cowan Jr. (10 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals) and Melo Trimble (21 points, four rebounds, three assists) know how to make plays and have done so many times throughout their time in College Park.

While the two guards held their own offensively, DawgTalk attacked them defensively, and the pair had 10 of the College Park Boys’ 18 turnovers.

DawgTalk general manager and Tortona (Italy) guard Chris Wright (seven points, four rebounds, and three assists) is a quick guard who slashes to the basket and scores with or without contact.

Jagan Moseley (22 points, six rebounds, two steals) can shoot efficiently from all levels on the court, and he is also an excellent passer. Jason Clark (13 points, five assists, three rebounds) is excellent at moving without the basketball, and when he gets it, he knocks down his shots.

Physicality on the boards and in the post was something to watch out for when it comes to the frontcourt. Greg Monroe, at one time, averaged a double-double in the NBA, and he still can play. For the Capital City Go-Go in 2021-22, he averaged 14 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in 17 games with the Washington Wizards G-League affiliate.

Ibekwe and James Gist carried the load in the frontcourt for the College Park Boys with a combined 30 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists.

Once the game began, the Terps had a few good defensive plays, and Melo Trimble scored the first bucket for both teams.

Under three minutes to go in the first quarter, DawgTalk had a 25-8 lead and ended the quarter up 20, 33-13.

DawgTalk’s ability to shoot from the field and perimeter led to that big lead. On the defensive end, they could cause turnovers and contest shots. Because the College Park Boys played from behind, they had to live and die by the three-point shot, which isn’t good if you’re down and they’re not falling.

By halftime, DawgTalk had a 63-32 lead.

Throughout the game, DawgTalk’s physicality showed itself. College Park Boy players were visibly frustrated at their lack of foul calls.

In the second half, the College Park Boys outscored DawgTalk 59-58, but it was too little, too late.

DawgTalk won 117-91 to earn the bragging rights in the inaugural ABL matchup.

Wright talked about the advantage the team had.

“We all have basketball players that are still active and playing in competitive leagues, so I expected us to be competitive. I know they have a great group of guys, but not everybody is active. It takes a toll on you if you’re not playing for a little bit. That was our biggest advantage. We’ve just been playing, and we were excited to play.”

D’Vauntes Smith Rivera took home the MVP trophy with 25 points, six assists, and four rebounds.

“It was great, and there was a great turnout. A lot of people were here, and everybody had fun,” College Park Boys general manager Travis Garrison said. “Yes, we wish we had a better outcome, but everybody had a good time, a lot of people showed up, so it was a great thing.”

Union Media Group’s Chick Hernandez and Tony Massenburg called the game through live stream.

Hernandez broke down how he got involved.

“Well, I saw it on social media first, and I thought, ‘What a cool idea?’ Then I reached out to one of the guys handling the league and said I’d love to be a part of it. They said, ‘We’d love for you to be a part of it.’ It was a standing-room-only crowd here tonight. That thing works, right? It was really cool to see. Obviously, DawgTalk played much better than the College Park Boys, but it was so cool to see the guys I covered for so many years back in the day. It was a win-win situation.

Does he believe the ABL can make some noise? The answer is yes.

“I think there’s definitely an audience for this because of the packed crowd,” Hernandez added. “They came to see stars from the past. They didn’t come to see great basketball. They came to see the players they grew up watching, rooting for, some kids idolizing. I think the reaction of the crowd says it all. It’s going to work across the country.”

Even Trimble thought the alumni game yielded a good experience despite the loss.

“It meant a lot, just to come out here even though it was in the second gym. It was great to see fans here and see the supporters, man. Even the [current] Maryland team and the coach came to watch us, so it was very special. I’m hoping we can do it again next year.”