by Matt Caputo

One of the perks of working at the greatest basketball magazine ever is being able to walk on the court before games. As you already know the SLAM SQUAD was on hand for the AND1 Mixtape Tour in Philly. When we got to the gym we walked right onto the floor and cut-it-up with two of the most well known AND1 players. Before the game started AND1 veterans The Professor, who is known for his ball-handling skills and Troy “Escalade” Jackson, known for his likeness to a luxury Sports Utility Vehicle, were getting loose and willing to talk a bit about this years AND1 run.

Although the annual AND1 Mixtape Tour has received a ton of coverage on SLAM Online already, we hadn’t heard from any of the players themselves yet. While the tour has been scaled down this year, the Philadelphia crowd loved their “home team” just the same. After 11-years in the business, the AND1 tour is still going and that’s something to be proud of. It’s still on ESPN2 and the under-10 batch of kids who came calling out from the stands for signatures in Philly still know all of the players by name. At this point, the tour is worth at least a week of your time.

SLAM spoke with The Professor and Escalade about two hours before tip-off as their warm-up shots echoed in the arena on the campus of Temple University.

SLAM: How has the tour gone so far this time out?

The Professor: It’s been really good actually. Originally they had shortened the schedule down to 6-games because we had so many overseas dates towards the end of the year. It was a little smaller production, I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, but it’s been great for me.

Escalade: The Tour has been great. I’m enjoying doing it for another year and the grind of it. It’s a lot of fun, man. The AND1 Mixtape Tour is the most fun I’ve had playing basketball in my entire life.

SLAM: Where did you guys see the best competition?

The Professor: Every year we see a good run in Chicago and D.C. We actually lost in D.C. this year at Barry Farms. We had some tough games this time out.

Escalade: It’s a toss-up or a tie between Chicago and D.C. Chicago has been historically great and D.C. in my opinion at Barry Farms is the best street tournament in the country right now. I’m a New York guy and it pains me to say that but Barry Farms is what Rucker Park used to be. I think it’s almost by default, like in New York there are 10 or 15 street tournaments so something has to be watered down by default. Barry Farms is it in D.C.

SLAM: Was there a big difference in this year to previous years?

The Professor: As far as the format goes, that is a little bit different. We’re picking one player from every city and then we’re going to play the last game at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield where we’ll play an all-star team of guys from the different cities. Then we’re going to pick one player who is going to win the $25,000 contract from Old Spice. That’s the end of the summer tour. We have like 20 overseas dates. We’re possibly going to Africa and I know we’re going over to Japan. We’ve got a lot of stuff in the works.

Escalade: I think the focus of the tour has been a little different. People have to understand that we’re a new company, I’ve been at AND1 a ton of years, but there has been a transition from the folks who started it where it was almost a mom-and-pop organization and the Tour was the baby of the guy who started it. Now we’re own by a huge entity, a conglomerate and it’s become more of a business simply by the way it’s run. There are positives and negatives, but we run like clock work now simply because things are more professional.

SLAM: Who had the best summer out of all the guys on the team?

THE PROFESSOR: Out of all the guys, it’s hard to say because on any given night anybody on this team could be the star. It’s hard to say or pick one person that has really been killing. We’ve got a bunch of guys that get 30 all the time, so in order to stand out you need to get 70.

Escalade: Pound-for-pound Baby Shack is the best player in street basketball right now. I don’t think anybody can guard him one-on-one. For the money ā€“ any way you wanna go ā€“ I’ll take Baby Shack. Silk has had a great summer. He showed that he’s not only a showman but he can run the offense. Probably those two guys have had the best summer.

When I did play I played well. I’ve been doing more of the corporate stuff and making the transition. AND1 Head Coach Big Mike (Ellis) and I have been picking the teams and that’s different for me. It’s a different talent.

SLAM: Where did you feel like the crowd was the most live or the most into it?

The Professor: Chicago. Chicago and D.C. actually! I mean, when you go to Barry Farms that’s like a real streetball atmosphere. You’re going to get that crowd live every time. Chicago, there are a lot of real good indoor games and stuff in Chicago.

SLAM: Are you excited about going up and playing in Springfield?

The Professor: I am excited man. I heard that they have a small venue up there which we’ve already comped a sell-out crowd. It’s going to be real hyped and it’s good content for the show. To be welcomed by the basketball Hall of Fame is a great honor. I’ve never been there.

Escalade: Yeah, I feel like I’ve played everywhere in this world on this tour. From Madison Square Garden and in the Staples Center to when I was with the Harlem Globetrotters playing on an Aircraft Carrier to when I was at Louisville playing at the Carrier Dome in front of 60,000 people in the NCAA tournament against Vince Carter and all of them guys.

SLAM: You played in the CBA this year, how did that go?

The Professor: It was a good experience. I only ended up playing about half of the season in the CBA. I don’t know if the owners really knew what they were getting into ā€“ they couldn’t fund it – but it was a good experience. It was the highest level that I’ve ever played at and I got a lot out of it.

SLAM: Do you plan on continuing to play traditional basketball next year?

The Professor: I have a couple of workouts, but I don’t know if I want to do that, man. I got into acting about a year and a half ago and that’s kinda the route I’m leaning towards now. I feel like that’s kind of a grind I could be more successful at. I’m into doing that as opposed to trying make the League and take eight months out of your schedule and trying to work on that. I just feel like I could do something different with my time.

SLAM: Tell me a little bit about this movie you’re in?

The Professor: It was great, man. We filmed it between May and June of last year and it’s going to come out NBA All-Star weekend. It will be in a few markets and theaters before coming out on DVD after that. I had like a little small role in Semi-Pro and that was like the first thing I’ve done. I’m working on a film with Chris Brown that should be shot before the end of the year, so, I’m excited about that.

SLAM: Are you beginning to be surprised by how these little kids still notice you?

The Professor: I feel fortunate that they do because without the fans there wouldn’t be anything. I wouldn’t say surprised because ESPN is a major network and ESPN2. It was on ESPN Classic the other day.