EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Two El Pasoans took their skills to the next level as they competed on TBS’ new game show, “The Cube,” hosted by former NBA star Dwyane Wade, winning $50,000.
El Pasoans Samantha and TJ Stukes were selected to appear on the first episode of the show, which involves a series of carnival-like games that the couple had to complete to reach the final prize of $250,000. All games take place inside The Cube, a glass box with attitude. Working on their own or as a team, each pair has nine lives to complete seven games that are worth an increasing amount of money.
TJ Stukes said he and his wife, Samantha, were long-time fans of the show, which originally aired in the U.K. “The game show is a worldwide thing. … Me and Sam always watched the show,” he said. “And then I saw that it was coming to the United States and I was like, ‘I need to apply.’”
Producers with the show reached out to him and the couple did a Zoom interview. And then they waited for a reply for three “painstaking” months, TJ said. “It was crazy ‘cause we didn’t think we got in,” he said.
But they got a call in the fall and were on their way to Atlanta to compete on the show. The experience was intense, but TJ said the crew was good to work with and getting to meet Wade was a dream come true.
“People say never meet your heroes, but he’s just so humble,” he said. “He was more excited for us than we were. Everything was like a fantasy. It was almost like it wasn’t real, like ‘wake up.’”
The Stukes run a gym in Northeast El Paso — Southwest Desert Hoops — that trains adults as well as at-risk youth athletes in their community and help them get into college. The couple are used to high-pressure situations, having played basketball in college. TJ later played for the Harlem Wizards basketball team, traveling around the world. They used their experience as athletes to employ a teamwork ethic to complete tasks on the show.
“Me and Sam, we’re both alphas. And I think that’s the most debilitating and most loving thing about our relationship,” TJ said. “We constantly butt heads, but at the same time, we love each other so much. And when it comes to teamwork, we always listen to each other.”
As for any stressful decisions on the show, the Stukes were in tune enough to know how to work together or encourage the other during each challenge, he said. They didn’t prepare much, but decided the plan was to not get too greedy, he said.
The couple had the opportunity to keep competing for the larger prize but chose to stick with the $50,000 prize they reached.
TJ and Samantha, an Andress High School graduate, said they wanted to compete on the show to upgrade their gym equipment and to put money toward scholarships for their younger athletes. Most of all, they were happy to represent El Paso — particularly Northeast El Paso, which they give a shoutout to on the show.
“I want people to hear that we’re representing the Northeast,” TJ said. “It’s unfathomable that people don’t love the Northeast and Sam has worked so hard” to bring opportunities for those in Northeast El Paso.