What’s up people? Summer is coming to a conclusion now and I am pretty much all packed up and set to start my sophomore campaign at Yale. Looking back at the past 4 months off, it is safe to say this has been one of my best summers yet. If I had to describe it one word, it would be “Dollar Pizza”… Okay, that is actually two words, sorry. Anyway, I could write a whole post on my love for dollar pizza but I promised The Basketball Diary I’d share my summer experience with you guys. So here goes.
I came home from New Haven in May with no serious plans for the summer besides working out and being a coach at local basketball camps. Many of my classmates were able to do study-abroad programs in countries like France, China, Peru, and England to name a few. Some of my teammates snagged cool internships working at business firms, the fashion magazine GQ, and even one guy was able to work with Russell Westbrook to help with his new fashion line. Being at home was great, but the start of my summer was looking pretty average compared to a lot of my peers.
Fortunately, my teammate Armani saved me from the monotony of my first month home. He invited me up to New York, to play in pickup runs a few times a week at the prestigious New York Athletic Club on 59th street. Playing at the New York Athletic Club or NYAC was different than the pickup runs I had back home in Jersey. Competing on the floor were professional basketball players, who play in foreign countries like France, Turkey, Japan, Greece, Israel, Spain and many more if I were to continue. A good number of these guys had short stints in the NBA, or were fringe NBA prospects coming out of college and now make their living playing professionally overseas. The trip up was always worth it on many different levels. Besides my game starting to mature since I was playing with more experienced players, I was able to hear the success stories and setbacks with having a professional career overseas. The trips to NYAC helped give a better understanding on possible routes for me post graduation if I continue to play basketball.
With time, I started taking more trips to New York for pickup runs and workouts. Unfortunately, I had no clue how the New York subway system worked and my Dad could not continue to escort me wherever I needed to go in New York. My first few trips on my own proved disastrous. I failed to have the presence of mind to make sure I was stepping on the right train. There were quite a few times I made it close to Harlem before I realized I wasn’t even going in the right direction. In time, I learned to put my ego to the side and to ask for directions if ever lost. Soon I was able to understand the train schedules and map and could make my way around town. I still had my problems, as there are countless stories of me making an idiot of myself. I always managed to find new ways to trip over my feet, get caught in the turnstiles, have train doors shut in my face, and there was that one time I dropped a slice of pizza on the tracks. I was definitely comedy for any witnesses of these actions but I was always in too big a rush to notice.
In addition to playing at NYAC, I got to play in Nike Pro City. Nike Pro City is a summer league tournament held at Baruch College and is considered the best summer league in New York. The Pro City experience was definitely unique. New York fans are the most passionate people about Basketball and are not shy to share their praise or disapproval of the play on the floor. I saw first hand experience of this when a heckling section was formed against Chris Smith (J.R. Smith of the NY Knicks little brother) because he could not hit a shot from the field. This definitely made me nervous since the crowds were more obscene than the average college student section. Fortunately, I proved to be a crowd favorite for my many dunks and high energy. Playing in Pro City was a lot of fun and my team, NYAC/Dyckman, was competitive in the league.
Around Mid-July, the summer scene around New York became interesting. The NBA allowed for their players to play in sanctioned summer leagues. At the time, I did not know this and was definitely caught off guard when I saw Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets throw on a uniform for the opposing team. At that time I wasn’t mentally prepared to play against NBA talent but the experience prepared me for future matchups this summer. NBA players continued to make appearances at Pro City and other NY Leagues as twitter was filled with rumors on where NBA stars would be playing for the night. This added an element of excitement since we never knew whom we would be playing with or against. This increased attendance at games significantly. Kyrie Irving, Nate Robinson, David Lee, and Andray Blatche were some of the bigger name players who made appearances at Pro City. Landry Fields of the Toronto Raptors even came out for one game to help my team make the playoffs. Kyrie Irving was confirmed to be playing against my team in the playoffs and I was looking forward for this rematch. I was hoping to pick up my first win against him since I went 0-3 against him my sophomore year of high school. Fortunate for him he kept his undefeated record in tact, as he didn’t show up for the night.
My team eventually lost in the playoffs but we had a great run on the summer and I made good connections with everyone on the squad. My summer in New York was great and an eye opening experience. Playing against NBA talent, learning my way around the city, and watching games at Dyckman and West 4th street kept me from having a boring summer in front of the TV. I look forward to coming back next summer and doing the whole thing again. This post ran a little long but thanks for the read people. Also thanks to The Basketball Diary for keeping any possible footage of me getting mixed or embarrassed on the court away from public eye. Much appreciated.
P.S. Trying to get to 500 followers on twitter before the start of the season. Help a brother out and follow me @Jussears5.