by: Ryan Wallerson / @rcwallerson

After stops in Kansas City, Louisville, Indianapolis and Chicago, the Ball Up “Search for the Next” Tour has reached its mathematical halfway point. The Ball Up All Stars—one of the best streetball teams ever assembled—arrived in New York earlier this week ready to continue their search for that special baller worthy of joining their team.

The team made stops at famous NYC courts such as Rucker Park and Pro City earlier in the week for some crowd love and laid-back ball. The entire team even graced the SLAM headquarters with its presence on Friday to talk streetball, among other things. But when the players touch the floor of Nat Holman Gymnasium Saturday Night, it will be all about testing New York’s best streetballers to see if any one from the Big Apple will advance to the next round.

If you listen to them talk, impressing this squad of streetball legends is no easily accomplished feat.

“So far, I can’t really say I’ve seen any one player that has stuck out to me as far as being a guy that stands head and shoulders above anyone else. Nobody’s game stands out like that,” says the Professor. “You have to be able to put on a show. There haven’t been any G-Smiths yet.”

Gary Smith, the youngest member of the Ball Up All Stars, was the winner of last year’s Ball Up “Search for the Next” tournament. “It’s hard. This process is extremely difficult. The contract can change your life, but you have to work hard for it, or you won’t make it,” Smith says.

“I have kind of become the standard for this year’s contestants, and I don’t want to put anybody down, because obviously it takes a lot of heart and a certain amount of bravery to even come out. On top on that, just getting into the games against us is a good job done for these guys that try out, because they have to make it past the workouts. But it definitely takes a certain level of determination and resolve, along with skill, to make this team,” added Smith.

Tough graders as the Ball Up All Stars may be, they are excited to see what New York City’s best streetballers can do against them. “It’s New York City. I’d call it the streetball capital of the world,” says Air Up There. “We’ll get out there and see what these city ballers can do against us. I hope New York gives us our toughest contest yet, but we do intend to go undefeated,” A.U.T. continued.

“I have a feeling it just might be New York that gives us the first name worth remembering,” added Baby Shaq.

This team is loaded with streetball legends and extremely skilled new faces. Come 7 p.m. Saturday night, they will find out what’s good in New York.