Vicksburg says farewell to ABA

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 19, 2014

Patrick Brown, right, drives downcourt past Dino Harris Friday night during an ABA summer league game at Jackson Street Community Center. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Patrick Brown, right, drives downcourt past Dino Harris Friday night during an ABA summer league game at Jackson Street Community Center. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

None of the six guys warming up in the Jackson Street Community Center Friday night were famous. There wasn’t a mob of autograph seekers lining the streets as they made their way into the gym, and the only cameras in the building were those on the iPhones of the handful of spectators clustered together in the stands.

It wasn’t a night of NBA stars. And that’s exactly why they were there.

The players, drenched in sweat from pre-game drills, were in Vicksburg to play an American Basketball Association summer league game with the Jackson Showboats, hoping their dedication will pay dividends with a professional contract. The Showboats have been in town all summer, working out and holding games inside the downtown community center in hopes of cultivating the roster’s talent and helping them get noticed along the way.

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“It’s about getting guys that want to do their best to get to the next level, because it’s not just about being an athlete at this level,” said Grant Worsley, the general manager of the Showboats. “You have to really be organized and be good with your time management and stuff like that. None of these guys are going to have the red carpet laid out for them.”

For players like Cordaryl Campbell, the league has offered somewhat of a fresh start. The former Tougaloo star has the intangibles of a shooting guard, but because he was one of the biggest guys on his team in college, he was forced to play in the post at a position that was far less comfortable or complementary to his size. Playing in this summer league has allowed him to showcase his skills as a guard who can distribute the ball and create scoring opportunities — a valuable asset to potential pro suitors.

“I think it’s been pretty good for me. I’ve had a chance to display some of my guard talent, which in college I wasn’t able to do that,” Campbell said. “It’s been pretty nice to do that and kind of share the ball, get the ball down the court, make people better and put people in a position to score.”

The Showboats’ summer roster is littered with guys like Campbell — players whose passion for basketball has driven them to keep chasing the dream inside the green and grey walls of the Jackson Street Community Center.

Patrick Brown was an NJCAA All-Star at Coahoma Community College and has played every game with the Showboats over the summer. Like everyone else, he expects his time to serve as a stepping stone to a bigger, brighter stage.

“To have the Jackson Showboats title on you really says a lot. It’s a big step with me… a big step up,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to get there step by step.”

That’s what the ABA is at its core. The league and its players are known as nose-to-the-ground grinders working to reach that next level. It’s a good lesson for the young kids who come out to watch the team dribble and dunk and dive across the court.

“I know that it has done well as far as letting people know that there is talent here,” Worsley said. “It’s for the youth, to let them see that hey, I don’t have to be at a big powerhouse school. If I work hard and have the talent, I can be seen.”

But Worsley is realistic. He understands that most of the guys on his roster will never receive a professional contract, so he’s more concerned with developing men than he is talent. It’s a key component of the Showboats’ makeup, something that has pushed the players far more than any sprint or workout.

“It’s not just about being a good basketball player. It’s about being a good person in society. That’s what I’m really about. You may not play in the NBA or overseas, but by playing hard you can take those same intangibles to be a teacher, a high school coach, a junior college coach, an AAU coach, or even working at just a regular job,” Worsley said.  “You don’t have to be on ESPN and the no. 10 draft. You can still play and follow your dream and go do higher things.”