by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
Team NIKE White 89, Team NIKE Red 86
This past Monday, the final 20 prospective Team NIKE members gathered to compete—and impress—in a closed scrimmage at Gauchos Gymnasium in Bronx, NY,. It was a transition-heavy run filled with crafty ball handling, deep threes, aerial displays and refreshing physicality.
On one side of the court were a handful of fans—Gaucho regulars who, either through daily routine or word of mouth, stopped by the gym. On the other side was myself, along with the players, coaches, scoreboard operator and bookkeeper.
The fanfare was low-key, but in terms of the opportunity at hand for the players—securing a roster spot on Team NIKE, and eventually competing in the Tournament of Champions throughout August—the stakes couldn’t have been higher.
Nike reps dotted the baseline and tuned in. They’re about a week away from announcing the official 10-man roster, which means 10 presumably-tough cuts will be made in the coming days. The TOC will bring the best streetball players from all corners of the country to New York City, where regional Team NIKE squads will compete against one another. NBA-heavy teams will also participate, as Kevin Durant and James Harden will come through on August 13.
By now, Team NIKE New York players have had their chance to prove they belong; between the Dyckman, Pro City, Watson, Hoops In The Sun, and Gersh tournaments, there’s a sufficient body of work to draw conclusions. Monday’s private scrimmage, and a public scrimmage this Friday at Gersh Park in Brooklyn at 8 p.m., will serve as the final act before the real season—the Tournament of Champions—begins.
On Monday, Team NIKE White (the color of their mesh practice jersey) came from behind to defeat Team NIKE Red, 89-86. The Red team was leading for three quarters, but led by former Mississippi State and Arkansas guard Gary Erving, and former Golden State Warrior/Summer League regular Vernon Goodridge, the White team pushed the tempo, fed their bigs and reversed the course of the game. The Red team had a number of attempts to tie to game, but in the final moments, suffocating defense forced an off-balance Kenny Satterfield three, which was way off.
Here are some players who caught our eye on Monday, and who we’ll be watching at the final audition on Friday.
Gary Erving (White) — Erving was the catalyst in the Red team’s comeback, as he controlled the tempo, set his teammates up and scored when needed. He finished with 11 points, but it was clear that when he’s on, there aren’t many guards who can stay with him. He’s sonic-like with the ball in his hands—on a few occasions, he simply went coast-to-coast using only five or six dribbles and finished at the hoop—and has a high basketball IQ. He knows how to reverse the ball and be patient on offense, and can speed it up in transition. It’s hard to see Erving not making the final cut when it’s all said and done. Too fast and too savvy of a point guard.
Kenny Satterfield (Red) — If anybody is guaranteed a spot on the team, it’s Satterfield, a streetball legend with NBA experience. Even at 32 years old, Grown Man Stuff aka Sirius Sattelite still contributes and at times can even take over. He’s a natural scorer with great instincts and tough shot-making ability, and he is arguably the most fearless and clutch player in streetball (we see you, Adris). What Satterfield has lost in athleticism he easily compensates for in basketball IQ and, more importantly, an automatic three-point shot.
Tu Holloway (White) — Holloway may be the most skilled point guard left. Thing is, his skills are mostly geared toward scoring, so if Team NIKE is looking for a distributor they may look the other way. Still, if it were up to me, the former Xavier guard should be a shoe-in. He can create his own shot as good as, if not better than, anyone else, and is a fearless competitor. Pair Holloway with a pass-first lead guard and you should be good money.
Zamal Nixon (Red) — Zamal has been performing well over the last few weeks, first at Dyckman and then at Pro City. On Monday, he did his thing too. Nixon, who played at the University of Houston under Tom Penders and currently plays in Germany, is a silky-smooth, unselfish guard with a nasty crossover and great finishing ability. He can penetrate into the lane and set up teammates, or he can finish with crafty layups. An intriguing player for sure.
Jeremy Hazell (Red) — The former Seton Hall guard is a shooter with great range. He can catch-and-shoot, or shoot off the dribble. Hazell is a tricky player to evaluate because he often disappears for long stretches, but can re-emerge with three or four three-pointers in a row. He’s also not afraid to handle the ball and make plays under pressure, which is always key in streetball.
Louie McCroskey (Red) — The former Syracuse guard is a great defender with good size. McCroskey also hit a few timely jumpers, and doesn’t do anything to make a coach scratch his/her head. He’s a consistent player who finishes, is active on D and knocks down open jumpers.
Kirk Williams (Red) — The 6-6, 210-pound former Longwood University standout has a great body and runs the floor roaming for blocks and dunks. An athletically gifted player with some skill and grace to his game. I’d be surprised if Williams is cut.
Vernon Goodridge (White) —The Brooklyn native and a poster boy of New York hoops (like, literally—Goodridge’s face is the logo for Gersh Park’s summer tournament), Goodridge is a freak athlete with supreme bounce and great mobility. He is one of those “go up and get it” players, and dunks anything near the rim. He has good length on defense, and is a pretty good rebounder, too. He is maybe the most effective big man on Team NIKE, and is a welcomed contrast to the mauler style of Curtis Kelly and Kavon Lytch.
Kavon Lytch (White) — Lytch has a wide, Glen Davis-type frame, and he gets all of his baskets in the painted area. Sound footwork has earned him the nickname “Happy Feet”, and he has a soft touch in the paint.
Justin Burrell (White) — The former St. John’s forward is a unique addition to the Team NIKE talent pool. He may be the only true point-forward in the group, and as a result, is an inside-outside threat. He can shoot out to 15 feet, but also back down smaller defenders and score over both shoulders (like he did in the scrimmage). He won’t dominate the game, but Burrell could consistently post a double-double.
Curtis Kelly (Red) — Kelly is a smooth lefty with soft touch and a wide frame. The former Kansas State forward loves to go left, and when he establishes position, is extremely difficult to stop. He has a quick first step, and knows how to rip through with the ball and get to the hoop. Kelly provides size, quickness and scoring. I’d be surprised if were not writing about him next week.
Team NIKE Scrimmage 1 Recap