by Drey Wingate / @ProStatus85

For many players across the globe, basketball is more than just a game: It is a way of life, a path taken to make progress and create other opportunities. And for a small percentage, it’s a job. The UBA (Universal Basketball Association) has become a highly recommended platform for aspiring and current professionals to make their mark. Next to the NBA D-League, the UBA is the most stabilized league in the country. Over 70 players have gone on to earn overseas contracts as well earning as spots in prestigious summer leagues, including the NBA. With the minor league market being at an all-time low and many players suddenly finding themselves struggling to finish a complete season, the UBA has proven to be the place to be for players from all levels.

With all the talent in this expanding league, no two players have stood out more than the dynamic duo of Jermaine Barnes and Freddie Williams [pictured right], of the defending champion GIE Maile Matrix. Both players were selected to participate on the USA National Team during the William Jones Cup this summer in Taiwan. Prior to being teammates for the first time during the 2011-12 season, both Barnes and Williams had UBA championships and all-star selections on their resume. Having two of the top players in the league on the same team was more than enough for GIE to claim their spot at the top.

Combo guard Freddie Williams is an NCAA Division II product out of Clayton State. Williams was selected as a JUCO All-American while attending Seminole Community College in Florida, where he averaged just a shade under 20 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 2 steals per, shooting a shade over 50 percent from the field. Standing at 6-2, Williams is freakishly athletic, scores with great confidence and is very efficient on defense, even against bigger guards. Williams has played in the SEBL, ABA and spent time overseas in the Dominican Republic and Tokyo. His career in the UBA has been nothing short of consistent. During his tenure in the league Williams has earned two UBA titles, two All-Star team selections, and was name ALL-UBA Shooting guard of the year last season.

Reigning UBA MVP Jermaine Barnes was the first player from the UBA featured in a SLAM article, and he is also the main reason why the UBA has received its national attention. In 2011, he was named by all USA Sports Reporters as the United Stated shooting guard of the year, beating a list of candidates that included top-notch overseas and NBA D-League players. Barnes’ resume is pretty impressive for a guy who comes from the small college ranks: He has played in Japan, the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia and Mexico. At 6-4 Barnes can play any position around the perimeter and has a respectable post game. His recorded accolades include multiple MVP awards, championships, first-team mentions, and an incredible 63-point performance while hooping professionally in Japan in 2008 (All-Japan Tournament). Even though he has yet to suit up for an NBA game, Barnes is a well known force in the basketball world. When it comes down to hoops, Barnes has been there and done that, except for that one place… the NBA.

With the expansion of the Universal Basketball Association this season, the sky appears to be the limit for this league. With GIE returning their stars, Williams and Barnes, and adding new pieces to an already incredibly balanced team, this is definitely looking like the year for the UBA to obtain the nationwide respect they have been working for years to get.