Friday, August 10, 2012

BIG BOY BALL: a golden Greater NC Pro-Am Summer

The Greater NC Pro-Am Grand Prize awaits its owner 
For everyone who attended this year’s Greater NC Pro-Am Basketball Summer League,  the games will hold a  special place in their hearts and memories since they all coincided with Team USA Basketball’s London 2012 Olympics mission to bring home the gold. As of the time of this blog posting, Team USA  is only one game away from cruising to a deserved spot at the top of the winners’ podium, leaving behind a reel of highlights including a 156-73 blowout victory against Nigeria.  In that game, N.Y. Knicks All-Star, Carmelo Anthony sank jumper-after-jumper, scoring 37 points.  That’s nothing.  Two days ago, during an NC Pro-Am Tournament playoff game, Tar Heel playmaker and NC Pro-Am’ regular season MVP, P.J. Hairston put up 49 points against a team led by Brooklyn Nets’ star, Jerry Stackhouse.  Also, while Hairston and Stackhouse may bleed the same Tar Heel blue, it didn’t stop Hairston from posterizing his older, UNC bredren.

Still, Stackhouse’s Banks Law Firm team managed to knock Hairston and his Sheraton Imperial team out of the tournament in the semifinals.  The credit for that win goes to another Tar Heel, Reggie Bullock, who put up 31 points against Rasheed Wallace and Hairston. Bullock didn’t play at all during the regular season, but he joined Stackhouse’s Banks Law Firm team during the tournament, when it counted.  In the championship game, Bullock, Stackhouse, Bo Ingram, Quincy Miller and USC’s J.T. Terrell ran all over the Duke-filled DreamWorks squad.  Duke freshman Amile Jefferson, was the victim of several, vicious Stackhouse shot blocks, Rasheed Sulaimon struggled in his limited playing time, Rodney Hook threw up airballs, and aside from a few spectacular plays between Quinn Cook and N.C. Central’s Dominique Sutton, the DreamWorks team looked defeated and disconnected as soon as the second half started. 

2012 Greater NC Pro-Am Tournament Champions, Banks Law Firm 
Stacked with two NBA players and the tournament MVP, Reggie Bullock, Banks Law Firm’s 91-84 victory over DreamWorks may not have been the most electrifying way to end a summer full of nail-biters and buzzer-beaters, but they did put on one final, flawless workshop.  The Duke boys are young and this is their first summer playing together.  Hopefully they’ll bring this summer’s experience to their upcoming college basketball season.  

But let's be honest, Greater NC Pro-Am wasn't basketball camp.  It wasn't a dreadful series of basketball scrimmages, and it wasn't life or death.  Sure, individual and team reputations were on the line all summer and many fans showed up to get some serious previews of their favorite players before the next NBA and college basketball seasons, but it was just as fun as it was competitive, just as much of a party as it was a bunch of duels, and just as dazzling as it was a little heartbreaking.  Some the best ballers from North Carolina, the ACC, and the NBA showed off high-scoring games, wicked dunks, three-point shooting exhibitions, dance moves, fan love, their love/ hate relationship with referees, and most importantly, good-fellowship.  

Team USA will win the gold medal in London and it will have been expected, but absolutely nothing at this summer's NC Pro-Am was predictable.  However, we did expect NC Pro-Am to average a billion highlights per night, and we knew that it'd be even more thrilling to sit inside N.C. Central's McClendon-McDougald Gymnasium and witness the action.  I'll take our golden, "Big Boy Ball" in Durham over gold medal, Olympic ball in London any day.  Next summer, we'll do it again and we'll have even more surprises, celebrities, big-time hoopers, and stunning highlights on deck.  Maybe you can play too, but remember; don't step on the NC Pro-Am court unless you're ready to unleash your GROWN MAN MOVES.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stackhouse finishes, then Wallace teaches at NC Pro-Am

The Kinston, NC Connection: Bo Ingram and Greater NC Pro-Am founder, Jerry Stackhouse, after their win. 
On Wednesday evening, current Brooklyn Nets forward and Greater NC Pro-Am founder, Jerry Stackhouse finally made an appearance at hisown summer basketball league.  It was more than just an appearance though.  The former Tar Heel star moseyed into McLendon-McDougald Gymnasium only several minutes before lacing-up his sneakers and playing with the Banks Law Firm team against DTLR.   And like most of the UNC-affiliated players that have balled in this summer’s Pro-Am league, he showed up and showed out.  Stackhouse’s performance could have easily been overshadowed by another Kinston, N.C.-native, Bo Ingram’s exhilarating 39-point performance, but, well, he’s Stackhouse.  After all, this is his league, and what better way to drive that point home than to put on a show that included this classic reverse jam, a few convincing blocks--including one that he nearly smacked out of the gym--, and an unbelievable, game-winning three-pointer at the final buzzer that rocked the house. In this The Herald-Sun story, he says that he drew up the final play for himself, using the hot-handed, Bo Ingram as somewhat of a decoy.  

Drawing up plays, throwing shots, and wowing the crowd: NC Pro-Am is still Stack’s Summer House. 
Afterwards, in the 751 South vs. The Athletes Foot game, Durham’s, Miykael Faulcon scorched the nets with a game-high 29 points on 6-of-6 shooting from behind the arc, and led his team (The Athletes Foot) to a nail-biting win.  Somehow, he had enough energy to play again in the following Sheraton Imperial vs. DreamWorks game, where he didn’t get as many opportunities to find his stroke.   Clearly, the main attraction of the night’s final game was the Duke-UNC battle between Blue Devil freshmen, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson, and the Tar Heel duo, Rasheed Wallace and P.J. Hairston. 

The game started out as intense any Tobacco Road basketball showdown can get, and then climaxed in the second quarter when Wallace and Jefferson got tangled-up beneath the basket.  The two exchanged some harsh words and had to be broken up before Jefferson went to the free-throw line to miss both of his free-throw attempts.  Sulaimon could tell that his teammate was a little rattled by the whole ordeal, and he did his best to coach Jefferson back into focus as Wallace continued to talk trash to the both of them.  This back-and-forth banter went on for the length of the game, and even UNC’s Hairston got in on bullying the Duke freshmen when he forced a smaller Sulaimon out of the low-post.  Sulaimon drew the foul, but after the play, Hairston flexed his muscles at the crowd, implying that he was just too strong to be budged.

Rasheed Wallace is a retired basketball player who still enjoys the game and even more, still enjoys participating in the UNC-Duke rivalry.   However, he seizes the opportunity to not only coach and give on-the-court advice to his fellow Tar Heels, but also the younger Duke players.  In the heat of all of Wednesday night’s shouting and competiveness Wallace walked over to Sulaimon’s bench, pulled him to the side and whispered what was probably a bunch of pointers and words of encouragement.  Sulaimon listened and nodded while the teacher, SHEED, handed down some nuggets of wisdom.  Earlier in the game, Wallace yelled from the court over to the Duke players’ Pro-Am coach, “those are still my boys”.  He was referring to Sulaimon and Jefferson and the tough love he shares for his ACC pupils and future stars.  Wallace’s Sheraton Imperial team won the game, 77-70, but it was just another day of class where everyone learned a lil’ somethin’ at the school of NC Pro-Am.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tuesday night's Top 7 plays at Greater NC-Pro Am

This is the last week of regular season NC Pro-Am play before next week's tournament begins and a new Pro-Am champion is crowned.  Between now and then, we'll post a couple more lengthy thinkpieces for y'all to read.  For now, check out some of the great plays from last night's games, featuring a pretty tricky behind-the-back bounce pass alley-oop that probably should have made #1.  The connection was one of this summer's best highlights and we'll see which one of our videographers include it in their "Top Plays of 2012 Greater NC Pro-Am" footage.