When the Gotham Hoops Invitational tips-off for the sixth year on Saturday at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, some of the top college Seniors from around the region will slide on their customized basketball jerseys and uniforms from Wooter Apparel and look to turn some heads on the court.
It’s their time to shine and showcase their game as these aspiring pro hoopers get an early glimpse at competing at the next level.
Thanks to Gotham Hoops founder Ray Anczelowicz and his dedicated staff, the annual Gotham Hoops Invitational has become known for its professionalism, respectability, and effectiveness in providing a competitive stage for aspiring pro players coming out of college the chance to stand out — both as players and people — and start to make a name for themselves. No doubt that will be the case once again this year.
Wooter Apparel recently caught up with Ray Anczelowicz about getting ready for another Gotham Hoops Invitational, this year’s talented roster, how players truly grow with Gotham Hoops, and teaming-up with Wooter Apparel for another jersey collaboration…
With the 6th Annual Gotham Hoops Invitational going down this Saturday, how has this event changed for you over the past five years of building and growing this event to what it is today?
This event has grown leaps and bounds over the last five years. This idea to showcase local men’s college basketball seniors to pro scouts has developed into a tournament-style event starring 36 seniors across the country. Each year our participants make the commitment to jumpstart their pro careers. This annual showcase pits top NCAA players against on another before an audience of pro basketball decision-makers. Since 2014, more than 125 Invitational alumni have gone on to sign pro contracts with NBA, G League and top overseas teams.
The Invitational is the perfect way for college Seniors in this area particularly to begin the process of exploring their options to play and compete at the next level and professionally. How have you seen players grow and benefit from competing on the floor?
I’ll never forget, minutes after the first-ever Invitational game in 2014, one of our participants was offered a pro contract to play in South America. That moment confirmed this showcase had legs. Our players have only grown from there. A prime example is, three of our alumni who are currently in the NBA G League attended NCAA Division II schools. Upon participating in our event directly out of college, each player went on to continuously prove themselves against high-level competition.
Time to break it down. The roster this year is once again filled with some impressive guys who will represent Team Wooter Apparel, Team Q4 Sports, Team Body Armor, and Team Court Grip…what are you looking forward to seeing come Saturday at St. Francis College?
I’m looking forward to seeing the guys get after it. They come because they know raise their stock among the pro ranks, but the tournament atmosphere captures their competitive spirits. Our participants have continuously played to win instead of playing to impress. They understand they make themselves look good in the eye of an evaluator by helping their teammates shine. The match-ups this year – both in the front court and backcourt – are as intriguing as ever. Participants in this year’s showcase will include Darnell Edge (2019 Northeast Conference Tournament MVP) and Mike Holloway Jr. (All-NEC Second Team) of Fairleigh Dickinson, Hofstra’s Jacquil Taylor (All-CAA Defensive Team) and Curtis Jenkins (3x ECC Defensive POY) of Molloy, and Greg Polean (Pace University) among others (2019 Gotham Hoops Invitational Roster available here).
What does it mean to you to be able to team-up with a brand like Wooter Apparel over these last two years?
It’s been great to team-up with Wooter Apparel on recent projects. Their uniforms have become critical to our event’s success. The 2018 Invitational marked our first-ever partnership with Wooter Apparel. The collaboration resulted in a beautifully designed uniform that won over event participants and spectators. The ability to work with a local business is a plus. The basketball world is small and it’s special when local companies can develop win-win scenarios.
What’s the one message you try to drive home to players and/or coaches of players who take part in the Gotham Hoops Invitational?
I urge them to take advantage of the opportunity. Their college days behind them, the Gotham Hoops Invitational can serve as a stepping-stone to beginning a pro career that can last years. It’s where players from all backgrounds and levels compete for one single goal: to boost their pro recruitment. The same goes for our coaches. Whether they coach high school or college basketball, this is an unique opportunity for them to instruct budding professionals.
I hope these players understand that they’re not alone in chasing this dream. There are more opportunities abroad than there are in the U.S., so they need to learn how international basketball works. From differing playing styles to levels of competition and salary expectations to language barriers, it’s a drastically different lifestyle as an overseas pro basketball player.
So much work goes into making a basketball showcase like this possible…
There’s a lot of man hours that go into pulling-off this event. Leading up to the showcase, it’s all about fundraising, player recruitment and event planning. Our experienced volunteers are incredibly helpful each and every year, donating their time to take-on a myriad of responsibilities. Once the games begin, the on-court activity runs itself. It’s the off-the-court duties that requires attention. Specifically, this year we are broadcasting live on gothamhoops.com. This approach demands efficiency from our staff.
What can we expect next from Gotham Hoops?
Up next is our 3rd Annual Gotham Hoops Winter Classic. In two years, we’ve hosted more than 30 boy’s high school basketball teams across the United States and Canada. More than 300 student-athletes have played in front college recruiters from NCAA Division I, II and III schools. As far as the 7th Annual Gotham Hoops Invitational, planning for this one starts summer 2019.
Notable Gotham Hoops Invitational Alumni Players
- Omari Lawrence | Kansas State University '14 | Offered pro contract to play in Venezuela, by attending coach, following his performance in the Inaugural Invitational
- Jaylen Morris | Molloy College '17 | NBA experience with Atlanta Hawks (2017-18) and Milwaukee Bucks (2018-19) and current G League standout for Erie BayHawks
- John Petrucelli | Molloy College '14 | Selected in NBA 'D League' Draft in 2014 and has had success in G League playing for both Erie BayHawks and Lakeland Magic
- Justin Reyes | St. Thomas Aquinas College '18 | Drafted by Salt Lake City Stars in 2nd Round of 2018 G League Draft; spent the 2018-19 season with the Jazz affiliate
- Justin Sears | Yale University '16 | After playing in the NCAA Tournament, Sears competed in the 3rd Annual Invite and has had a successful stint playing in Germany's BBL
- Jordan Parks | North Carolina Central University '15 | Another mid-major player with NCAA Tournament experience, Parks has made a name for himself in Germany and Italy
- Branden Frazier | Fordham University '14 | Arguably our most accomplished alumnus, Frazier has competed at the highest-levels in both Russia (VTB) and Spain (ACB League)