For The Love
The Windy City’s ABA franchise is helping two former stars reconnect with the game they love.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Anyone who’s played basketball competitively at a certain level can tell you that once those days are past, the itch to compete remains. There’s always a feeling or a belief that no matter how old you are, you still feel like you can get out there and do it if the opportunity presented itself.
Hoop Dreams star Arthur Agee turned 39-years-old last month and today, after not playing basketball at a pro level since 1997, he’ll make his debut playing PG for the Windy City’s ABA franchise, the Chicago Steam.
Fourteen years is along time, especially when you’re talking about playing basketball at a level that many people don’t get to reach. But Arthur is having fun with it and from what I saw watching him practice, he’s still got it. Yet in spite of still being able to compete, he says he’s scratching his last basketball itch and after this, he’s done for good.
“This is it, man. This is getting the last of playing basketball at a high level out of me,” says Agee. “I’m glad that even after turning 39, there was an opportunity here for me to get back in it and play competitively instead of playing in different tournaments on the weekends. This is a professional setting and it’s getting me back into my whole Hoop Dreams thing, man. So I’m loving it.”
Agee says the opportunity to play came about after he was approached by Anton Lucas who was scouting for the Steam at the recent D-League tryouts held in Chicago in September.
“Anton recognized me at the tryout and asked me if I was still in shape. I told him that I wasn’t in professional playing shape, but I’m not out of shape either; I still play. So he told me that he would love for me to come and try out and I took him up on his offer and had a good showing for the shape that I was in.
“It was perfect. I already knew some of the guys on the team like Rico Hill and Sam Mack because we’re the three oldest. So I just want to come in and help add some veteran leadership and instill some professional focus to these guys and let them know that is a stepping stone to them living their hoop dreams. Whether it’s playing overseas or in the NBDL or something like that.”
One of the younger guys on the team that Arthur Agee is excited to mentor is Justin Cerasoli.
Cerasoli was a standout prep player nationally while at West Aurora HS after starting his career at Providence St. Mel on Chicago’s West side. He also played AAU ball in the summers with current Charlotte Bobcats guard and Peoria native, Shaun Livingston.
After graduation, Cerasoli chose to play collegiately at Seton Hall for Billy Garrett, his old high school coach at St. Mel, but things didn’t work out for him in New Jersey like he’d hoped for and he would eventually transfer to Ole Miss and then on to Loyola (Il.) where he completed his collegiate career. After leaving Loyola, Justin played briefly in Italy before coming back home and has been working out in Chicago and being like a big brother to former East Aurora star and current UConn Freshman, Ryan Boatright.
Now as a member of the Steam, Cerasoli—as Agee alluded to—is looking to use this as a platform to open up other opportunities for himself, and much like Arthur Agee, the opportunity to play came in quite an unusual manner.
“I’d been playing in a Pro-Am on the West side with Tony Allen and Will Bynum and one of the coaches, he knew me, but he came out to see my play,” says Cerasoli. “He’d been trying to get me to play on his team for a while and so it just made sense to play, stay in shape and get things on film in order to stay on the scene and what not.
“But I’m really just playing for the love and if anything comes from it, it’ll really just be a plus. I’m still just trying to be the best at it as far as playing the point and I just want to come out and show people that I still got it.”
If you’re in Chicago, you can check out the Steam’s home opener tonight at 6:30 against the Milwaukee Blast at Fosco Park. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for teens and free for all kids under 12.