Bosco’s Corner: Boro ballers try to earn roster spots

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From former...

By Anthony Bosco

The NBA Summer Leagues have come and gone, having given those ballplayers on the outside looking in a shot to impress coaches and general managers with the hopes of landing a paying gig in the biggest and best basketball league on the planet.

From former St. John’s standout Marcus Hatten to one-time Providence star and Queens native Karim Shabazz, a host of NBA hopefuls with Queens ties have been hawking their wares during these largely unknown summer tournaments.

Unlike some NBA players from Queens who will have no trouble staying in the league for the 2003-2004 season — including Lamar Odom, Anthony Mason, Mark Jackson and Speedy Claxton — others need this time to shine.

While hardly a true test of one’s talent, with many games more resembling all-star contests than rough and ready NBA encounters, the summer leagues do serve a valuable purpose, especially for unrestricted free agents in need of work.

One of the more prominent Queens natives out and about is Rafer “Skip to M’Lou” Alston, a player one coach tabbed the “greatest streetball player of all time.”

Alston, who has served time with the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, has yet to sign a deal for next year, spending his off-season as the undisputed star and king of the court of “Streetball,” a reality television series on ESPN chronicling the AND1 sports apparel company’s grassroots basketball tour.

But despite being able to sell out arenas across the land and leaving onlookers gawking at his no-look passes and circus-style moves, Alston still hasn’t established himself as a lock for a job in the NBA next season.

In one recent published report, Alston said he believed it was unlikely he would be back with Toronto next year, but he has fielded offers from a host of other teams.

Whether or not his “Streetball” rep has hurt him when it comes time to lock up a contract remains to be seen. But I think it is safe to say up to this point that while “Skip to M’Lou” may be the hottest thing in the playground, Alston is not the hottest commodity in the NBA. Far from it.

Hatten, who I thought not only deserved to be drafted but should have been picked in the first round of the most recent NBA Draft, wasn’t taken at all. He played with the Los Angeles Clippers during the summer, and he could not have started better.

During his first game, a 102-86 win over Memphis, Hatten scored a team-high 17 points with six rebounds, four assists and four steals — not bad for a guy every NBA team passed on during the draft.

But as good as his start was, consistency is what catches the coaches’ eyes during the summer. Hatten’s numbers and minutes began to decline after that stellar beginning, following with 11 points in his next outing, just two in his third and fourth, six in his fifth and sixth and 12 in his seventh and final game. All in all, the Clippers went 5-2 in the Summer Pro League, based in Los Angeles.

Lavor Postell, who spent three years on the end of the New York Knicks bench after a successful four-year tenure at St. John’s, has been active this summer as part of the Denver Nuggets roster.

Postell, who proved to be a versatile, athletic threat, if a bit undersized for the NBA, was part of a team that included Carmello Anthony and went 4-2 at the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City. Postell played in just two games at the tournament, but shot 7-for-12, averaging 9 points per game.

Postell also played with the Dallas Mavericks at the Reebok Summer Pro League in Boston.

Shabazz, a slender 7-foot-2 center, was part of the New York Knicks roster at the same tournament in Utah. The Knickerbockers, in dire need of a presence down low, did not get much out of the Queens native, who played in five games but averaged 1.8 points and less than a rebound per game.

Shabazz joined the Knicks in Boston as well.

One big man who did have a respectable showing was another former St. John’s standout and Floral Park native Zendon Hamilton. While never able to make a big impact in the league since his departure from the Jamaica campus, Hamilton lit it up in Salt Lake.

The 6-foot-10 center averaged 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He also averaged 17.9 minutes per contest, which should at least give him a shot at making an NBA roster, if not Utah’s, for the upcoming season.

There are other players out there as well, floating in the abyss somewhere between the NBA and the playground, from Marvis “Bootsy” Thornton to Omar Cook, both of whom are still active in trying to procure a place in which to play.

But these guys, all of these guys, are the long shots. These guys, while all stellar ballplayers, are hanging on to a dream and doing everything they can to cash in that lottery ticket. One 10-day contract can quickly lead to two and then someone is just an injury away from quality minutes.

Of course, not everyone can be a star. But being even the 12th man on an NBA team is a heck of an accomplishment. Let’s hope these Queens guys and the ones I did not mention all get their chance.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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