Players look to gain exposure for NBA dreams

Published 2:03 pm Friday, June 26, 2015

Marquise Mems leaps to dunk the ball during a scrimmage Friday in an ABA summer league game at Jackson Street Community Center.

Marquise Mems leaps to dunk the ball during a scrimmage Friday in an ABA summer league game at Jackson Street Community Center.

Hearing the commissioner of the NBA call your name on draft night is a dream come true for basketball players who have dedicated much of their lives to the sport.

After 60 names have been called and the draft is over, those who were not drafted have to reevaluate their dreams.

The American Basketball Association will host summer league games in the Jackson Street Community Center Friday and Saturday. This gives current ABA players a chance to stay in shape during the offseason and others a chance to gain exposure to play overseas or in the NBA Development League.

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“I have a great reputation of players coming in, getting exposure and going on,” said Grant Worsley, owner and general manager of the Jackson Showboats. “That’s what this is for, this is exposure. You’re not going to get rich playing in the league but you will get rewarded if you do the right thing, stay focused and play hard.”

Worsley does a lot of things to get players exposure aside from this weekend’s summer league. First he has the players playing games in different cities in Alabama, the Carolinas and Florida. He then puts profiles of the players together to let scouts and agents become familiar with players’ skills and talents. He also signs players up for different basketball camps.

“If people don’t know about you, they’ll never find you. If you’re good enough and they know about you they’ll find you,” Worlsey said.

Among the players who will be playing in the summer league are former dandy dozen and Vicksburg High School players Jonathon Phelps and Mychal Ammons.

Phelps and Ammons both played college basketball. Phelps played at Missouri Western University, while Ammons played at the University of South Alabama before signing to play professional ball in Europe.

Worsley said Phelps is a testament to doing the right thing and getting exposure to play at a higher level.

“He came out at a high level, but didn’t do well in college. The whole environment was a little rough for him,” Worlsey said. “But he found a niche’, he played his one year for the Showboats and now he’s with the top team in the ABA.”

There may be some truth in the logic of a player having more freedom and control of his career by going undrafted and being a free agent, but it also becomes a realization of some players’ potential and ceiling.

Most of the players in the ABA have traditional full-time jobs. It can become challenging as players manage their jobs, family and passion for basketball. Worsley said it then becomes a balancing act where you have to work a regular day job and keep yourself in the elite condition you need to be to perform.

“You’re dealing with a situation where you have to train at that elite level and it’s a little bit more physically and mentally demanding,” Worsley said. “That’s something I kind of help them focus with. You can’t work out and train, and not be able to provide for yourself, your child or family.”