George Mason University

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Former Mason hoops stars look for another magical run

July 23, 2019   /   by Damian Cristodero

(Left to right) Lamar Butler, Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell, members of the Mason basketball team that unexpectedly reached the 2006 NCAA Final Four, are back together on the Green Machine, which plays this weekend in The Basketball Tournament. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

Folarin Campbell considered the 64 teams playing in The Basketball Tournament that tips off this weekend, and declared the eight-man Green Machine, made up of mostly former George Mason University players, as the underdog.

It is a familiar position for Campbell, who was a guard on Mason’s 2006 men’s team, which made an unexpected and dramatic run to the NCAA Final Four.

“So, if we can make that kind of run again, we would love it,” Campbell said.

Campbell is one of six former Patriots, all of whom play professionally in Europe or Canada, who are part of the Green Machine, which opens its tournament at 6:40 p.m. Friday against The Web, made up of former University of Richmond players. The game, at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Virginia, is available on the ESPN3 streaming service.

The Basketball Tournament, in its sixth year, is a single-elimination event that pays $2 million to the winner. Teams are broken into eight regions with the semifinals (August 4) and finals (August 6) in Chicago.

Joining Campbell on the nine-man Green Machine are Will Thomas, his teammate on Mason’s 2006 NCAA team; Bryon Allen, who played for Mason from 2010-14; Isaiah Tate (2007-11); Mike Morrison (2008-12); and Ryan Pearson (2008-12).

Former Georgetown star Austin Freeman is also on the team. Former Mason guard Lamar Butler, named the most outstanding player of the 2006 NCAA East regional, is the coach.

“It was a no-brainer,” Butler said of accepting the coaching duty. “You put a lot of sweat equity into your craft and the uniform you wear. It means so much to you. Just to be able to come together as a family and battle with George Mason on our chest is special.”

For Thomas, who has played professionally in Europe since 2008, the tournament also is a good way to stay in playing shape during the summer offseason, which is usually devoted to training or pick-up games.

“The intensity is going to be there,” he said. “Everybody wants the two million. You play a little bit harder when you are able to get that type of money.”

Unfortunately for the Green Machine, its bracket includes Overseas Elite, the four-time defending tournament champion.

“Definitely there’s some pressure,” said Campbell, who also has played in Europe since 2008. “But we’re the underdogs. That’s definitely how we look at it. The same thing going into the Final Four. We know what it means to be under pressure like that, so just go out there and play.”