Michael Zasada just wants “another chance to lace ‘em up and actually play some competitive basketball.”
The 2006 McHenry East graduate will have his chance this weekend when he plays for the Peoria Allstars in “The Basketball Tournament” in Peoria.
The event is an open-application tournament featuring 64 teams in a single-elimination bracket. The winning team will split the $2 million winnings among itself, and the championship game, semifinals and regionals are televised on ESPN and ESPN2.
The Peoria Allstars, consisting of a mix of former D-I, D-II and D-III basketball players mostly from the Peoria area, play in the Midwest region against the Fort Wayne Champs at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Bradley University. The game can be streamed online at ESPN3.
Zasada is a former D-III basketball player at Eureka College, where he is in the athletic hall of fame. He was the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year in 2010. He lives in Canton, outside of Peoria, and works for a company called Superior Industries.
In his free time, he plays in a Peoria-area basketball league run by Willie Williams, who manages the Peoria Allstars.
“He was putting a team together,” Zasada said. “He put together a bunch of Peoria guys. I reached out to him and asked if he needed another guy.”
Zasada was happy to learn there was room on the roster. He is familiar with most of his teammates.
“A couple of them played at Peoria Central,” Zasada said. “So I’ve seen them play and followed their careers a little bit as they went on to college.”
Zasada said the best player on the team might be Lawrence Alexander, a Peoria Manual graduate who went on to help North Dakota State reach the NCAA tournament in 2014 and 2015.
Measuring in at 6-foot-5, Zasada said he will likely play shooting guard or small forward. If the Peoria Allstars win two games this weekend at Bradley University, they will advance to the regionals in Brooklyn, New York. The semifinals and finals are in Baltimore, Maryland.
“It’s a cool thing,” Zasada said. “Whoever started this tournament, it’s a really cool concept. I’m super excited.”