This Saturday, 192 players will compile 48 teams and battle on four courts in Chicago’s Seward Park for the Red Bull Reign tournament.
The three-on-three format is sure to test player’s mental and physical limit as they battle the outdoor elements as well as each other for a chance at competing in the championship game.
Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, Billy Rush’s career has been characterized by battling and staying the course, which should only aide in his pursuit to add to his growing reputation in the city.
After finishing high school at Thornridge (Dolton, IL), Rush would go on to transfer from two junior colleges before averaging 15.7 points and 7.8 rebounds as a senior at Robert Morris (Chicago) in 2010, while shooting 40.1 percent from three-point range.
After going undrafted, he had the opportunity to work out for his hometown Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks liked what they saw enough to invite him to training camp. After not being picked up, he was allocated to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, where he would be waived just a few days later.
The Tulsa 66ers claimed Rush from the player pool in April of 2011 and even started 13 of the 14 games he played in, but was waived in January of 2012.
Rush would see the next season’s D-League draft go by without his name being called, despite a promise from his agent that two teams were interested in selecting him. He would receive a call in December from a team in Pro A Germany. He would play last year for a different club in the same league and while he was a long ways away from home, he relished the opportunity to be playing the game he love for a living.
While he is waiting on the next phone call that will embark he and his family on their next journey, Rush’s participation in Saturday’s tournament is simply another chance to compete and continue proving himself.
SLAM caught up with Rush to discuss his career and what he expects in Saturday’s tournament.
Team: No Days Off
– Billy Rush
– Geremie Allison
– Brandon Dagans
SLAM: Coming up on the Southside, where were some of the places you played growing up and that you play at currently?
Billy Rush: As a kid, I didn’t go too far. It was two outdoor parks and one indoor park. We had the Dolton Recreational Center, (John W.) Needles Park, where I did the other Red Bull tournament, and there’s the Greenwood Court. I would always play out there as a kid. I just pretty much stayed local. Even when I got a car, I didn’t really start knowing a lot of people in the basketball world, in the city of Chicago until I got in college. Besides the pro-ams, I would always do the Summer League. Right now, we have the Chi-League going on. Once I pretty much made a name for myself, I was able to get in that and I’ve been doing that every summer since. If you can get in that, that’s big throughout the city.
SLAM: How was your experience playing abroad?
BR: It’s an adjustment. I can definitely say it’s not for everybody. Over there, in a different country for so long, there’s so many things you have to adjust to, but that’s one of the things that I did enjoy about it. Learning new things about how other people live and it was some things I took from Germany that I wish we could have in the US, as far as the cleanliness and little ways of how they live.
They have no crime. I’m from Chicago and I’m sure everyone hears what people say about Chicago nowadays. People can’t even have guns out there. It’s almost like no worries out there. It’s just people living their lives, they’re healthy out there. There’s a big difference in the food. It’s so many things I took from it and that’s some of the things I enjoyed about playing over there.
The other thing is just how into the game the fans are. It’s something that you’ll probably never see. You see it in the US, as far as the college atmosphere but I don’t even think that can compare. Fans are chanting, beating on drums and all kind of things. They’re so into the game it’s unbelievable.
SLAM: With all the waiting you’ve done in your professional career, what are some of the things that have kept you motivated to keep at it when most would have given up?
BR: First off, my faith in God. It’s been told to me before and I’ve instilled it within myself that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Just my faith, my family. They’ve always believed in me, kept me going because there were times where I wanted to give up, with just the constant waiting and being patient. My wife has always been here supporting me. I have a little guy who’s 5 and I know I can’t let him down. My mother and my whole family. They’ve always believed in me and always been praying for me. They’ve kept me grounded and my head on straight and that’s the biggest part of my career.
SLAM: How would you describe your game?
BR: I would say I’m an all-around player. I bring everything to the table. I always say, Don’t be one dimensional. Back in high school, I was just labeled as a shooter. I used to stand in the corner and shoot. That’s what the coach brought me up to do because I went from a sophomore to being on varsity and I was a little nervous. I didn’t know too much and didn’t want to do too much to go back down a level. Over my career, I’ve learned to just balance my game, be more of a defender, rebounding, being a hustle guy, a motivator, lifting up guys when they are down. I just try to do a little bit of everything.
SLAM: Experience with Red Bull?
BR: It’s been great. Just competing with guys that I haven’t even seen in the city and seeing other guys’ games, and just competing. It’s always fun to compete. To be a part of Red Bull, as big as it is. They’ve always done events with every sport that’s out there. To just be a part of that has been an amazing experience.
SLAM: Some will see your resume and ask why you are competing in the Reign tournament. What would you tell those people?
BR: It’s another opportunity to compete. I love the game and any opportunity to do something big, I’m going to be there. So regardless of what’s on my resume, on someone else’s resume—it can be NBA guys or guys that’s never played—we out there competing and it’s definitely going to be a competition with the rules and how we have to play and win. It’s conditioning and I feel like I got the upper hand there because I’m constantly working out and just ready to compete.
SLAM: How did you go about selecting teammates for the tournament?
BR: I had some guys in mind. They’re a little bit older, so now they’re thing is, if there’s not money, they didn’t want to do it. I had to go searching for guys and one dropped on me (on Monday) because he thought the tournament was on August 1. I know I have three for sure. So if we have to push it through the whole day, that’s what we have to do. We’ll be drinking a lot of Red Bull, I guess [laughs].
SLAM: What do you think helps give your team an advantage in a three-on-three setting?
BR: I thought about if we should go with a guard, a wing and a big and just how we could go about matchups. But with me being like a small forward, I would play the big and having two guards. You can help [on defense], but I feel like I can guard a big one-on-one, so I wouldn’t need much help depending on how big the guy is. Just having the quickness, I feel that’s going to be to our advantage. I felt like the quickness would help more so than size because I feel bigs would get tired after a while, with the layout of the tournament and how many games you have to play. I decided to go with me as the big and two other guards.
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