River City League returns to Vicksburg

Published 8:00 am Friday, July 27, 2018

As it enters its fifth year in Vicksburg, the River City Summer League is hoping to grow bigger than ever by downsizing.

The annual workout camp for professional basketball players will launch its latest edition Friday at the Jackson Street Gym. Nearly 50 players from various mid-level American and international pro and semi-pro leagues will participate in both an effort to stay in shape and network with other players and agents as they search for their next contract.

Unlike its previous editions, which were held throughout the summer, this year’s camp will be one weekend only. Players will hit the floor Friday at 6 p.m. and again Saturday at 4. Admission is free for fans. The camp is sponsored by Water View Casino.

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River City League director Grant Worsley said the downsizing was intended to make it easier for players to travel to the camp, and to make it more of a destination for players.

“I condensed it to one weekend so people could get here,” said Worsley, who is also the coach and owner of the Jackson Showboats of the American Basketball Association. “With a lot of players being spread out and having opportunities with other camps, I didn’t want to have it where one weekend we had 30 guys and the next we had 15. Now they can block out a weekend and make it a point of emphasis.”

So far, Worsley said the move is paying off. In years past, most players were from the South. This time, players from nearly a dozen states will attend. Almost all of them are former college players looking to stay in shape or for their next professional opportunity.

The list of confirmed players includes former Jackson State star Chris Hyche, who is a member of the Harlem Globetrotters traveling team.

“We have players from the Big Ten, ACC, and others that are on their professional journey,” Worsley said. “We’ve got some nice players coming. A lot of guys at smaller schools and mid-majors that are getting an opportunity to play overseas want to play in a controlled environment, and that’s what I set out to do six years ago.”

The two camp sessions resemble 5-on-5 pick up games or scrimmages in their execution. Worsley picks teams and subs out players at the end of 10- or 20-minute periods, and the sessions will run for several hours.

“I want players that are focused on the business of basketball, not just playing,” he said. “It’s not a situation where guys can show up and play. This is not pick up basketball. You have to be dedicated to showing up, being there and playing.”

To that end, Worsley said he views the River City League as a sort of basketball convention where scouts can meet and watch players, and those on the court can share experiences and tips with each other.

The NBA is the pinnacle of professional basketball, but only a handful of roster slots are available each year. Below that are dozens of leagues around the world where players can carve out a comfortable living. Latching on with an overseas team often is done through word of mouth and connections, with one former team member putting in a good word for another. Camps like the River City League are a good place to make those connections, Worsley said.

“Smart players will ask the veterans questions. It’s not about being envious or demeaning yourself. It’s about fellowship and asking another partner in basketball what it’s like,” Worsley said. “A smart person is going to learn from someone that’s been there.”

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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