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ABA players keep the dream alive

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2014

In a stuffy gym off Walnut Street, the sharp shrieks of a referee’s whistle pierce the air. Ten guys in neon orange and gray jerseys sprint up and down the court at the Jackson Street Community Center, their aspirations of one day playing professional basketball firmly intact. 

The players of the Jackson Showboats, Mississippi’s American Basketball Association team, have made Vicksburg their temporary home as they play in the ABA summer league. The goal? To hopefully court some attention from a professional roster in either the United States or overseas. Because of that, the Showboats have become a fixture in the city as players continue to shape their skillset in practice and scrimmages.

Showboat coach Grant Worsley talks with Ellis about his preformance after the scrimmage.
Showboat coach Grant Worsley talks with Ellis about his preformance after the scrimmage.

Recent Showboat addition Cordaryl Campbell played two years at Coahoma Community College and two more at Tougaloo before finding his way to the squad.

“I had seen an ad on it on the Internet and a couple of my friends were talking about it so I decided to give it a try,” Campbell said. “I came out here Friday and we started doing a lot of working out and running up and down.”

Campbell said the ABA has assisted in furthering his talent development as he continues to climb toward his goal of one day reaching the NBA.

“It’s helped me a lot with things I need to work on, things I need to do as a teammate to make my team better,” he said. “It really helped me develop a lot of skills I didn’t have at first.”

Vidalia, La. native Ronald Ellis may be older than Campbell and everyone else on the roster, but the career basketball journeyman is still working tirelessly toward getting a look by a pro team. The 32 year-old former Grambling State guard has trekked across the globe in the name of hoops before finally settling down in the ABA with the Showboats.

“I’ve been a lot of places between Grambling and now. I played on a travel team in China. I played in the ABA before when the Jackson Showboats had a team,” Ellis said. “I played in the semi-pro in… Los Angeles. It was called the Los Angeles Pro League. I played in that in like ’06.”

Ellis has worked out for a handful of NBA D-League teams but has yet to land on a roster. He says practicing with the Jackson team will help him garner attention that would otherwise be nearly impossible to come by. For him, the opportunity for publicity outweighs the opportunity for player development.

“I’d say more exposure. I don’t have to come here to work on my skills,” Ellis said. “It’s more just staying in shape, to run, to get seen if you have somebody in the stands.”

He may serve as the patriarch of the Showboat family, but Ellis shares his teammates tenacity, intensity and energy. He’s bounced around enough teams and met enough people to know how difficult starting from scratch can be.

“Once you do it a lot, you get used to it. When I first started, getting thrown in the mix, it’s hard playing with a lot of players who don’t know you (and) you don’t know them,” he said. “You just go play? No practice, just play? It can be rough.”

It won’t come easy, and it won’t come without a combination of luck and skill, but the members of the Jackson Showboats know their goal of making a professional roster is still alive every time they hit the floor. At the end of the day, it’s not about where you come from. It’s about where you’re willing to go.

“You just got to see what you can do, who can do what, and don’t get frustrated,” Ellis said. “Just play.”