Former Indiana players Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls were reunited again, teaming up to play in a five-on-five tournament called The Basketball Tournament. In the single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament, Watford and Hulls have been playing for Armored Athlete, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region.
The Midwest Region is one of four regions, with each region comprised of a 24-team bracket. Those brackets break down further into 18 teams which received the most fan votes in that region of the United States plus six at-large teams.
The winner of the tournament gets $1 million, and Armored Athlete got closer to that prize as David Dudzinski scored a team-high 21 points in a 91-73 third-round win over Reach 1 Teach 1. Watford added 18 points and nine rebounds, while Hulls poured in 16 points and dished out nine assists.
”We’re just excited to be here,” Hulls said. “I think we picked a good group of guys, and it’s a cool opportunity to get to know some different people, play some ball and win some money.”
The win advanced Armored Athlete to the Super 17 – the round which includes the final 16 teams of the tournament in addition to the defending tournament champions, the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni.
Armored Athlete opened the tournament with a first-round bye. The tournament began Friday, so Hulls, Watford and the rest of their teammates didn’t have their first game together until Saturday night.
Neither Hulls nor Watford showed any signs of rust, opening the tournament with 23 and 18 points respectively in a 98-86 victory over Chicago Elite in the second round. Lloyd Johnson led all scorers in that game with 29.
”For the first time playing together, I think we did a really good job,” Hulls said during the team’s post-game press conference, which was live-streamed on Periscope after the first game. “We hit a lot of shots in the first half that got us going.”
The team shot 51.4 percent from the field, including 47.4 percent from 3-point range, in the first half of that game. Individually, Hulls finished 6-for-8 and Johnson 7-for-11 from the same range.
Hulls would’ve had seven, too, but his half-court shot after the first-half buzzer was waived off.
”Haha, yeah I bobbled the ball just enough to make me get the shot off a bad bit late,” Hulls said via text message. “It would’ve been nice to add to the score in that way but it was my fault! Always fun to hit shots like that though. We won still so it ended up not being a big deal.”
The performance probably gave those from the Chicago IU Alumni Association in attendance flashbacks to Hulls’ and Watford’s days as Hoosiers. Indeed, the experience has been a trip down memory lane of sorts as it’s the first time since IU’s 2013 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse that Hulls and Watford have been teammates.
”It’s always good playing in front of Hoosier fans,” Watford said after the first game. “That’s what we expect anytime we come around the Midwest region.”
Another fellow IU alumni, Will Sheehey, might join them in the Super 17. Sheehey formed with the team with Armored Athlete General manager AJ Mahar, who trained Sheehey when he was younger.
Sheehey has yet to play with Hulls and Watford because of a hamstring injury suffered while playing for the New Orleans Pelicans’ summer league team in Las Vegas, but is expected to join the two and the rest of the team next weekend according to Mahar.
Hulls said it’s been awesome to have the chance to play with two of his former teammates.
”It's been awesome, we haven't played with one another in a couple years now so it feels good to get out there on the court together and getting our chemistry back,” he said via text message. “ I think it'll help us down the stretch, with that team chemistry. I'm excited for Will to get back as well cause it's the same with him, been a while. Always good to link back up.”
As for what he would do with the money if he and his teammates won the whole tournament?
”I'm pretty frugal with my money so I would save most of it to be honest but also would help pay off some things for my wife's schooling and get some shoes for sure,” Hulls said via text message. “I am all about shoes.”