Armand “Ant” Brown was involved with Thomas Nelson basketball as a player and coach for 20 years. He mentored hundreds of students and athletes until his death last year in a car accident two days before turning 40. He was so revered at the College and in the community that close to 200 people turned out for a candlelight vigil in his honor.
Now, Thomas Nelson Athletics, its basketball supporters and the community are coming together again to continue his legacy. The inaugural Hoop It Up 3-on-3 basketball tournament is set for Sept. 21 at Bethel High School, where the Gators play their home games. Proceeds will go toward scholarships in Brown’s honor.
“I think it’s just going to be a great occasion to give back,” said basketball Coach Chris Moore. “I think this is something that is going to be a joyous occasion and a great opportunity for us to continue to build Thomas Nelson basketball and build the community partnership.”
Brown’s mother, Phyllis, said the idea of a benefit tournament was discussed last year at his funeral. Details are being finalized, but it will run 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a full day of activities. Depending on the number of teams, there is a limit of 48, there will be two or three age groups (hoping for 13-17, 18-29 and over 30 divisions). Games will last 20 minutes, and Moore said it hasn’t been decided if it will be single elimination or double.
“Armand made a big impact, a big impact on these young men,” said Thomas Nelson interim athletics director and former basketball coach Angela Jackson, who added the aim is to make it an annual event. “We’ve gotten a lot of response … We are hoping there is going to be a big turnout.”
As with the tournament itself, details also are being ironed out for the scholarships. The goal is to offer two $500 scholarships, one for a member of the men’s team and the other for a player on the women’s team. They will be awarded in the second semester.
“It’s going to be about not just what they do on the floor, but also what they do in the community and also what they do in the classroom,” Moore said.
In addition, the event will help raise money for a book scholarship in honor of former Thomas Nelson player Chris Payne, who was coached by Brown. Payne graduated from Thomas Nelson in spring 2018 and died on the day of Brown’s memorial service after a battle with cancer. Fundraising efforts at last year’s season-opener and throughout the season raised about $500 for the Brown scholarships.
Brown played two years of club basketball at the College and was a coach for the Gators from 2001 until the time of his death.
The tournament, however, will be about more than just basketball. Phyllis Brown said since her son was an organ and tissue donor, she has been in contact with LifeNet. Phyllis hopes to provide information at the event about becoming a donor.