Showboats ready to show off in Vicksburg

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2017

For four years, the Jackson Showboats have made Vicksburg their summer home. They liked it so much, they’ll spend some time here this fall as well.

The Showboats, an established team in the semi-pro American Basketball Association, will play two regular-season games in Vicksburg in November and December. The first is Saturday night at 7 against the Port City Tornados at the Jackson Street Gym, and the second is scheduled for Dec. 18 against the Pensacola Lightning.

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Admission for each game is $10.

Grant Worsley, the owner, general manager and coach of the Showboats, said playing games in Vicksburg has long been a goal for the organization. He has held the team’s summer workout camp at the Jackson Street Gym each year since 2013.

“Doing a couple of games in Vicksburg is good, because it gets people out of Jackson and over here to the restaurants and casinos,” Worsley said. “People want to feel safe and have something family-friendly to bring their family to, and I think that’s what Vicksburg has to offer.”

The modern ABA has little in common with its 1970s ancestor other than the name. The 21st century version is a loose confederation of more than 100 teams stretching from coast to coast, and its competitive alignment is more closely related to the college game than the NBA in that teams are ranked based off of who and how many games they play, and qualify for large tournaments at the end of the season.

The Showboats were born in 2012 and have been a regular presence in the league ever since. Worsley builds the roster each season around accomplished former Mississippi college players that the NBA has passed on.

This year’s roster includes former Alcorn State star Tamarcio Wilson, Tougaloo’s Quintarrius Porter, and Mississippi Valley State’s Jurmello Hall. Wilson was an All-Southwestern Athletic Conference player, and Porter was an NAIA All-American.

Most of the players in the ABA will never sniff an NBA contract, but Worsley said that isn’t their objective anyway. His focus with the Showboats is to give players a chance to stay in top shape and showcase their talents for better-paying minor leagues and international leagues. A number of Showboats alumni have been able to make that leap over the years.

“It’s giving people an opportunity to see guys that played in the SWAC and are looking for an opportunity,” Worsley said. “They’re trying to go to Mexico or South America or Europe, where basketball is becoming a global game. Being in Mississippi, we’re not far from places like that, where guys can go and make some money.”

Opportunity and development are driving forces for Worsley. Part of his focus with the Showboats is to mentor young men and not only try to help them take the next step in their basketball career, but in life as well. He has worked out sponsorship deals with several Jackson-area businesses to help players find part-time jobs while they play for the Showboats and finish up college coursework.

Ticket sales, sponsorships, clinics and a few other sports-related side businesses pay the bills, Worsley said, but seeing players fulfill their potential as human beings is a big part of what keeps him going with the franchise.

“It’s a mentoring opportunity. Being an athlete myself, I saw some of the downfalls of players not getting out of it what they should. Seeing them flunkout, or their parents not preparing them for how the system works,” said Worsley, who played college football at Syracuse University. “This is an opportunity for them to focus on basketball, but still go to school or make a living for themselves.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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