Timberjacks player creates TBT team in honor of late godsister


Saturday marked the four-year anniversary of when Shaneia Causwell was shot and killed in Birmingham, Alabama.

The same night the 28-year-old woman was shot once in the driveway of her home, her brother, Stefon Causwell, was shot seven times, and her fiancé, Brandon Dozier, was shot twice. They both survived.

The shootings took place over a petty argument, Shaneia’s godbrother, Dylan Causwell, said.

In January, Derrick Peterson was found guilty of murder in the shooting death of Shaneia and attempted murder for wounding the two men. A trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment for the murder conviction and 20 years’ imprisonment for each of the attempted murder convictions.

Before that conviction, Causwell had learned the application he submitted for the Purple Hearts basketball team to play in The Basketball Tournament had been accepted.

“After I applied, her killer got convicted, so I thought it was a good time to honor her,” said Causwell, 27, who recently finished his second season with the Medora Timberjacks semiprofessional basketball team.

“We had a really close relationship, and she was always doing basketball stuff, too. … My dad would have camps during the summer, and she would always be there,” Causwell said. “Purple is her favorite color, so that’s where the name came from.”

A text thread asking “What if we created a basketball league that paid out $50 million to the winning team? Who would play?” in 2010 sparked a revolutionary idea, according to thetournament.com. Could an open tournament format like the one used in the FA Cup be combined with a high-stakes, winner-take-all model to create a new, independent, electrifying, professional sports property?

After years of refining the concept, pitching television networks and potential sponsors, TBT was launched in 2014 without any partners. Zach Lowe announced the concept, thus introducing the world to TBT.

With the first game’s tip-off a few months later in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in front of 17 fans, the event was born. It has since hosted more than 400 games, partnered with ESPN for global distribution, introduced a new way to end basketball games, paid out more than $10 million in prizes and crowned eight champions, the website states.

“That’s something I’ve always been interested in,” Causwell said. “Since I was a kid, it has been around. I’ve always watched it during the summertime.”

Up to 64 teams have the opportunity to participate in the tournament in one of eight regional locations for the first three rounds. If a team advances, the quarterfinals will be in a separate or the same location (Round 4).

Teams that win their quarterfinal game will advance to the semifinals through championship game (rounds 5 and 6). The team that wins the tournament will receive a cash prize of not less than $1 million.

“That’s why it’s a big opportunity because some people don’t even get past the application part of it,” Causwell said. “(A TBT official) reached out to me pretty fast through email, and then we connected on the phone later that day, and he just said that he thought our story resonated with what the tournament was about.”

A team may designate a charity to which it will donate a percentage of its winnings, provided that such organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Causwell said he’s in the process of establishing one to continue to raise funds beyond participating in TBT.

The purpose of Purple Hearts is to be a voice for and raise awareness of gun violence in America and try to bring change, he said. In the past, Shaneia’s older sister was stabbed and killed.

“My goal for this isn’t just to be a basketball team but to bring change,” Causwell said. “We want to donate money to a family this year, a family that has been affected by gun violence, and just really want to give a voice back to the voiceless.”

The Purple Hearts are in a 16-team region that will play at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Their first game is against the Texas Tech Air Raiders at 9 p.m. Wednesday. It will air on ESPN+.

Causwell said some teams represent a cause, while others consist of alumni from different schools. He currently has 10 players on the roster, including Timberjacks teammate Kevin King and former Timberjacks teammate Leonard Harper-Baker. Others play for the NBA G League or overseas.

The Purple Hearts practiced late last week at Brownstown Central High School since Medora High School’s gymnasium is being redone.

On Saturday, they hosted a youth camp in the gym at Medora Christian Church, and there was a balloon release in Shaneia’s honor.

Then Sunday, they traveled to Texas, where they will practice leading up to game day.

The winner will advance to play Friday, and then the regional final is Sunday. That winner will advance to the Louisville region. The TBT championship is Aug. 2 and 3 in Philadelphia.

“I think it’s just kind of shocking people, upsetting Texas Tech at Texas Tech, and doing that for (Shaneia) would be huge,” Causwell said. “They are already counting us out. They are looking forward to Texas vs. Texas Tech because they have an alumni team in there, so I think if we can go in there and play David vs. Goliath and beat them, that would be amazing.”

As long as the Timberjacks are around, Causwell said he would like to keep the Purple Hearts in Medora since the Timberjacks owner has been a big help in making it all possible. The idea is to do more camps and fundraisers in Shaneia’s honor.

“But if not, definitely in Atlanta where I’m from, maybe in Alabama where she’s from,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure that part out, but we definitely want to keep it going.”

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