He traveled around to the 33 cities and NBA arenas that the Tour reaches from June to August each summer. The games are mostly entertainment and a chance to show off tricks fancy dribbling, behind-the-back passes and alley oops.

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 9, 2004

So what’s Lumpkin’s favorite trick?

“I don’t do any tricks,” he said succinctly. “What they got me for, really, is that I can jump. I don’t really do any ball tricks. All I try to do is score.”

And score he did. Because of his high-flying ability and 38-inch vertical, Lumpkin earned the nickname “Clark Kent.”

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On the Tour, no one remembered the score of the games. It was about putting on a show. But Lumpkin said things began to change when his team started winning.

“We started beating them, so it got competitive,” he said. “They’re really trying to get out of the tricks, but if it comes, the crowd still wants to see that. If it comes, they like to do it, but they like to win too.”

It wasn’t exactly the competition that he craved, but at least he was playing basketball.

Jackson got its first semi-pro basketball team earlier this year. The Rage joined the newly-formed World Basketball Association and began assembling its team during the spring.

Lumpkin decided to try out since it was near his hometown and a chance to get back into real basketball. He practiced with the team, talked with coaches and actually thought he had made the roster. But he never got a call. He was passed over again.

“At that time, it was like I really can’t play any better than I was playing at the time. I was really ready to give it up,” he said.

He chose to go back for another summer with And1, and then he would hang up his jersey and move on with his life. After all, he was 26 and had two children to support Anthony Jr., 1, and Jalen, 3. Time had run out.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. After that whole ordeal, I was like, I’m done with it. I was doubting,” Lumpkin said. “At first I thought, what am I doing wrong? Is it me? Right when I was ready to just throw it up, there came an opportunity for me.”

For someone who always feasted on confidence, self-doubt was a new feeling. Little did he know what was ahead for him.

While playing with the And1 tour in Sacramento, Calif., Lumpkin dazzled the crowd with his talents. He also impressed a particular pair of spectators George and Joe Maloof. And the Maloof brothers just happen to own the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

“They came to the locker room after the game and was like they wanted me to come to minicamp,” Lumpkin said.

The Maloofs hope Lumpkin could be the next Rafer Alston. While with the And1 tour, Alston was known as “Skip To My Lou” before he signed a contract with the Miami Heat last season.

Alston had played sparingly in the NBA before, but enjoyed his best season in 2003-04. He averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 assists as a backup guard for the Heat and signed to start for Toronto next season.

Lumpkin finished the week-long minicamp in late July, and the Kings signed him to a 10-day contract and asked him back for the veterans’ camp on Sept. 5 to open the season.

More than 10 years in the making, Lumpkin had finally achieved his dream.

“I went from going out there at first and not even being on the roster to basically getting my foot in the door,” he said.

While he hasn’t officially made the final cut, just being there is more than he could have imagined.

“It’s a blessing, I guess,” Lumpkin said. “It’s been a longtime coming, though. Hopefully things will be good.”

At 5-11, Lumpkin knows the only position he can play in the NBA is point guard. Before he can do that, he also knows he needs more practice.

He has to change his mind set from shoot-first to pass-first, often a difficult transition for shooting guards. He’s also got to prepare for the NBA 3-point line, which is a full 4 feet farther back than the college arc.

“My whole life, I’ve been shooting just regular 3-pointers. Now it’s league, NBA 3-pointers. It’s a totally different ball game,” he said. “Another thing is I’ve been used to scoring all my life. Now they pay somebody to score. I have to just go in and distribute. That’s a tough adjustment, too, but I’m used to it.”

He’s been hitting the gym every day since he got back from minicamp, whipping himself into the best shape of his life.

“I’ve been working crazy,” Lumpkin said. “Everybody doubted me like I wasn’t going to work hard, but I’ve been working hard. I’ve been staying on myself, I’ve been lifting weights, running, trying to do what it takes to be ready, to be 100 percent.”

In just under a month, Lumpkin will step onto the same court as perennial All-Stars Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic.

“I haven’t gotten to meet Bibby and the other guys yet. I’m really looking forward to it,” Lumpkin said. “I’m real excited. I can’t even put it into words. I’m just ready to get there.”

Duett said he’s impressed with Lumpkin’s continued dedication and hopes this is the chance he’s been waiting for.

“A lot of people that have been shot down or told no would have let it go a long time ago and gone elsewhere with their life,” Duett said. “His love for the game and his self-imposed will to be something better than what he is has always impressed me.

“He may not make it, but he believes he is.”