Purdue alumni bringing #TylerStrong mentality to TBT 2020

 

By: Kathryn Maloney


Men of Mackey is playing in honor of Purdue superfan Tyler Trent 

When Ryan Kay found himself sitting next to former Purdue guard Grady Eifert at a fundraiser, he couldn’t help but question why Purdue alumni had not entered a team into The Basketball Tournament. A few months later, the Men of Mackey came to fruition. 

A Purdue alumni team had been in the works and discussed for years, but never actually became a reality. Ryan Kay, the General Manager, was introduced to TBT through his friend who is involved with another team. When he convinced Grady Eifert to buy in, P.J. Thompson soon followed. With these well-liked guys leading the charge, recruiting talented players became an easy task. 

Having what they believe is a highly competitive team is important, but it’s not what this team is most excited about. Shortly after announcing their first six players, the Men of Mackey announced that they would be playing in honor of Tyler Trent. Kay is planning to donate all his winnings to the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment at Purdue, and has encouraged the players to do the same. 

 

When Kay spoke to Trent’s family about this idea, both his parents were ecstatic.

“If Tyler was still here, you know he’d be sitting right behind the bench cheering you on,” said Tyler’s father, Tony Trent

Tyler Trent had a tremendous impact not only on Purdue, but the entire sports world. He inspired many with his gratitude and grace despite battling a rare form of bone cancer. Trent first earned the admiration of the Boilermakers football team by camping outside the stadium in September 2017. Soon after, other Purdue sports teams became involved with Trent. After being featured on College GameDay and winning the Disney Spirit Award, he became an inspiration to many. 

After his passing on January 1, 2019, Purdue began to establish a research endowment in his honor. #TylerStrong was used by several sports teams, and shirts with that hashtag filled Mackey Arena. 

 

“He’s inspiring. I think he fit the true mold of who a Boilermaker is, said P.J. Thompson. "For me specifically, he showed me it doesn’t matter how many days you live on this Earth but about how you live it."

“His perseverance and how he went about his days just shows the Boilermaker way of how to keep working,” added Eifert. 

Trent certainly served as a uniting factor for the Purdue community. Because of this, it was easy to get players to agree to be part of this mission. Through text introductions, the Men of Mackey were able to put together a team that is expected to be highly competitive. In addition to Eifert and Thompson, sharpshooter Ryan Cline and 7’2” Isaac Haas are among the more recent graduates to join the team. Other players on the roster include Jon Octeus, who played for Purdue until 2015, and Rapheal Davis, whose college career came to a close in 2016. 

Eifert has been the catalyst for getting this team started. His favorite moments at Purdue include beating Indiana his sophomore year and hearing chants of MVP from the stands against Nebraska. As a TBT fan for years, Eifert had been wanting to get a team together for a while. He is excited to be able to compete with other Purdue alumni, and expects them to be highly competitive.

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“I know all the guys are going to play super hard and tough just like they did at Purdue. For the guys to be back together is going to be a lot of fun,” said Eifert. 

Eifert and Thompson both became graduate assistants after graduating in 2018. It helped them both garner an appreciation for the other side of the game. Both players are excited to be able to represent Purdue on the court after being on the sidelines this past year.

“TBT is an awesome event that I’ve been following for a few years now and always wanted a chance to compete against some of the best,” said Thompson.