The hopefuls were from varied backgrounds, basketball-wise, from former LSU player Storm Warren and to Lawson Celestine, a 17-year-old junior transfer at McMain High School.
All, however, converged on the Alario Center courts on Friday night with the same purpose. They were vying to make New Orleans’ team for the Red Bull Run, a tournament featuring teams representing nine cities that will culminate in a championship game at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., after one of the Nets’ games this coming season.
Participation was invitation only, only eight spots up for grabs, with three or four alternates. And, with New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis as one of the scouts picking the team, it was a chance for validation.
Davis said he saw players who could give New Orleans a chance.
“There was some great talent out there, guys who could jump shoot, pass, dribble,” he said. “It was a collection of talent. We just have to figure out who we want to take out to New York.”
The team won’t be selected for a couple of weeks, but Davis already had his list. “There were a couple of guys who I definitely circled — (guard) Maurice Foster, (forward) LaShawn Gallion and (forward) Lance Perique. There were a couple of guys who caught my eye and have my vote.”
Foster, who graduated from Helen Cox High and Oklahoma Baptist, dominated play during the scrimmages with several highlight-reel baskets and dunks. The key, he said, was to strike a balance.
“You had to play team ball; that’s basketball,” he said. “You had to trust your teammates but be able to get yours, too.”
Teams are being formed in New Orleans, Atlanta, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Washington, D.C.
“We talked to the guys who run basketball leagues in the cities, who train players, the gate-keepers,” said Josh Gotthelf, owner of the popular basketball magazine, Dime, who helped organize the event. “We talked to as many people as possible.”
Except for the Rucker League-style disc jockey and music, the event took on a serious tone. There were no fans, no friends, no spectators.
“This is about pride and bragging rights,” said Gottshelf, who hoped for 100 players but got about 50.
There was no money on the line. At least not on this day. However, that is not how the participants saw it.
“It wasn’t just an offer to play, but an opportunity to showcase for a well-known name like Red Bull,” said Warren, a power forward who last played at LSU in the 2012 season and this season was with the Den Helder Kings in Holland. “You never know what opportunity might come your way.
“I’m trying to parlay this into something better.”
Warren showed as much, dunking a pass off the backboard on a fast break that drew a loud reaction from the DJ.
Myron McGowan, a 6-foot-7 guard who played at McDonogh 35 but left after Hurricane Katrina and finished at Heritage High School in Leesburg, Va., was hoping to see how he measured up against tough competition. The “best non-NBA players in the area” is the goal of forming each team.
A good showing here could get his name out, but perhaps more important boost his confidence. He played at a junior college before finishing at Dillard University in 2011. And now, he said, he has tryouts lined up with the 610 Sports Management agency camp in Houston on Aug. 24 and with the NBA Development League Austin Toros on Sept. 24.
“This is my first summer pursuing my dream of a pro career,” he said. “I’m glad they have something like this.”
Celestine said he was there to see how he measures up, too. He was spotted holding his own against top competition. Another player, Lionel Green, said he saw him play, and he’s very quick.
Kentrell Gransberry was there for the competition, too. He, like Warren, is a big man with Baton Rouge ties. Gransberry (6-9, 265), played at Woodlawn High School and said he has played in Mexico and Puerto Rico. On this day, it was not so much about dreams but staying busy.
Yet, he was dribbling an awful lot for a big man who didn’t have too much on the line. Told he should have concentrated on dominating the lane, he said getting the rebound and bringing the ball up court “was the only way I could get the ball, show what I could do.”
Between scrimmages, a dunk showcase took place, perhaps to show who has star quality since there were no fans to entertain. Foster threw a pass to himself off the wall behind the goal, caught it and slammed.
He was topped by a backwards offer by Gallion, who brought the ball between his legs before dunking.
Then, there were others who were more quietly effective, such as former O.P. Walker and Xavier point guard Wanto Joseph.
It was ragged, for the most part, but Davis said it will get better when the team is picked.
“These guys just came out here with no practice, and they all want to make it,” he said. “Other cities are more known for basketball, but I think New Orleans will have a team that represents it well.”
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