Ex-Gator Chambers gets shot in ABA|[12/12/2005]

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 12, 2005

Patrick Chambers was done with basketball, or at least the organized kind.

He played in pickup games and city leagues around his new hometown of Nashville, but the Vicksburg native hadn’t played on the higher levels of the game in five years.

Then a funny thing happened. He started to dominate those pickup games and city leagues. Word got around. He got noticed. And he got an invitation to a pro tryout, which he made the most of.

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Now Chambers, who starred at Vicksburg High, Hinds Community College and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is taking another shot at basketball. He signed on with the Nashville Rhythm of the American Basketball Association and has helped the team get off to a 3-1 start.

&#8220It was always in me, but I never had a chance,” said Chambers, who scored 27 points in the team’s first game of the season, a 138-102 win over the Kentucky Colonels. &#8220I went to different tryouts, but this one I was invited to so I went and was asked to join the team.”

Taking the long road to a basketball career is nothing new for Chambers.

He was cut during tryouts for the ninth-grade team at Vicksburg High – then worked on his game on the playground, made the varsity squad his junior year and helped them reach the Class 5A semifinals in 1996.

He then went to Hinds, where he averaged 12 points and eight rebounds his sophomore season. That helped him earn a scholarship to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where he became a second-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection in 2000.

In his senior season at UAPB, Chambers averaged 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds as a forward and led the Lions in scoring in 17 of their 27 games.

The gaudy averages and accomplishments weren’t enough to overcome his small size, though. At 6-foot-6 and just over 200 pounds, he was too small to play in the post in the NBA. So after a few tryouts for European and CBA teams didn’t pan out, he gave up on the idea of a pro career.

Chambers moved back to Vicksburg for a few years, then moved on to Nashville for a fresh start earlier this year.

While there, he continued to play the game for fun and struck up a friendship with one of the Rhythm’s owners, Derek Watkins. Watkins, himself a former college player at Tennessee State, invited Chambers to a tryout camp and later signed him.

Now Chambers is having to readjust to organized ball. In the city leagues it was just about scoring points, he said. On an organized team he’s having to learn the strengths and weaknesses of new teammates and play a set position instead of simply running up and down the floor.

&#8220Playing organized ball, you have a coach that wants you to play a certain position. In the city league, I was having to run everything from point guard to center,” Chambers said.

The ABA is light years from the NBA. It’s more a loose affiliation of teams than a true league, with 42 franchises spread throughout the world from China to Mexico to the U.S., some of them fly-by-night operations. Nashville’s first game against Kentucky was hastily scheduled after the Rhythm’s regularly scheduled opponent, Chattanooga, folded its franchise.

The ABA also has a number of unusual, fan-friendly rules that promote high-scoring games. And the average crowds number in the hundreds – on a good night – rather than the thousands the NBA draws.

&#8220I’m looking to go forward with it,” Chambers said. &#8220I think it’s a stepping stone. I’m hoping to hear from some other teams because of how well this team is doing.”