When I hear the name Indiana, a few things immediately come to mind. Corn Fields...
The Big 500 Auto Race...The Jackson Five...And of course...Larry Bird...The Movie
"Hoosiers" and that clown Bobby Knight throwing a folding chair across the court or
grabbing up some freshman's jersey in his fist. I had never been there...I did not know
what to expect. What we got in Indiana was a hell of a lot more than corn fields and
Gene Hackman. Let me start at the beginning. The New York $ugar Daddie$
participated in the 2014 Showdown in Naptown, that was held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
This is Masters Basketball. This is the Final Chapter...the Last Dance...This is were
middle-aged and elderly Ballers work-out, compete and get their last Hurrah!!
They do it BIG out here...Great Competition...Great Facilities...Great People. in the
immortal words of Michael Jackson... "We're Going Back To Indiana!!"
Thursday Night [NYC], almost 10 PM...The uptown #1 Train/Broadway Local roars
out of the tunnel headed towards Dyckman. There are two men across from us, soundly
sleep on the subway. No doubt hard working men...Sound asleep...on the subway. Not
the move...Sleeping on the subway...On pay day. I'm not quite sure where we are going
but we've got a small window of time to go to a Press Conference for the Dominican
Sports USA age 45 & Over Tournament [October 10 & 11th] that will be held in NYC
with teams representing The Dominican Republic, Team DR-USA, The Puerto Rican Pro
Legends and one of our basketball clubs TEAM ALKEBULAN Harlem, USA. I receive
at text from Gene Ali Jennings [A $ugar Daddy]...He's arrived at the Port Authority Bus
Terminal on 42 Street from Syracuse, NY...I buzz him and ask him to sit tight and then
meet us at 125 Street near the Apollo Theater in a hour. He's not sure if he should take
the D Train, the A Train or the C Train...I told him to "Take the A train...It's
the quickest way to get to Harlem." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cb2w2m1JmCY
That is where we could link up with him and head over to the east side to catch our
13 hour ride with the $ugar Daddie$ to a far away land called Indianapolis, Indiana.
My brother Eddie and I walk a number of blocks...[Should have caught a cab]
through the edge of Washington Heights [Little DR]. We got off at the wrong train
stop, so now we hoof it back towards where I believe the restaurant is. We pass the
dimly lit housing projects on our left, and cross the busy street and see the bright
flashing lights of the 809 Lounge on Dykman Ave. We walk into a quiet,
sophisticated restaurant, dim lights...elegant. I sense that we have missed the event,
or we are in the wrong place. In my best Spanish I say, "Come Estas Hermano...
Donde es la Press Conference?" Silence. And then the gentleman smiles and
points us towards two large gold doors. We push through and there is a room full
of people...Press, lovely hostesses, ballplayers, basketball fans, etc...They begin
to applaud us...We step further into the room, the bright lights swing our way and hit my
eyes and I hear the announcer, "Ladies and Gentlemen this is Lahh Woods!...
NYDLBALL.com! Team Alkebulan! Lahh Woods! Come up here and have a word
I turn to my brother with that "Can You Believe This?" look on my face...He's laughing that,
"Yes we can do this" laugh, and I just shake my head and walk up towards the press table.
Welcome to my world my Brother...Welcome to my world. The Tournament of Legends
is in it's second year and with it's international teams, blaring Latin music, and standing
room only attendance it is becoming one of the hottest basketball tickets in Harlem, NYC.
Friday Morning 1:15 AM 125 St & Lexington Ave The Mercedes Van pulls up
slowly at the curb. The curious stop and stare while others step lively on this busy
Harlem street corner. The age 55 and Over warriors board the team van after loading
their luggage in the back door. Some folks have so many bags it looks like they're
running away from home. Running away to Indiana, a long way from the dark
corners and crowded sidewalks of East Harlem. This is not a common happening.
"Are you some kind of pro team?" "Are you musicians?" "Where y'all going?...Yo
I still play ball! How can I get down with this?" The attention and inquiries were
quite flattering, even for middle aged men, who have seen it all before in another
lifetime...But we still had to venture west and effectively compete after many hours
of sitting in the vehicle. We said our prayers, thanked God, and begun our journey.
The journey west has finally begun and for next 13 hours I have a captive audience.
I get to VJ....I put into the DVD player videos of Alkebulan and Sugar Daddy games
from throughout the summer of 2014...Something to pass the time away before we
compete against the basketball legends from Chicago, and Indiana.
We were in the able driving hands of one of our big men, Warren "Snakes on the
Plane" Storey aka Captain Turnpike or Old Iron Kidneys himself...He breezed
through New Jersey...He flows through Pennsylvania. He's a driving machine. He
and his Chief Navigator Tony "$ugar Daddy" Greene were relentless time keepers
and they were determined to get us to INDY on schedule. We begged them to stop
so we could use the bathroom...They ignored us...Thank God we eventually needed
to get some gas.
When we got to INDY we were joined by my personal team MVP, Carl 'The
Mailman" Colbert who also happen to be "The Hardest Working Man in Masters."
He had flown in from Florida for the weekend's athletic festivities. He met us at
the Marriott and we packed for the game and headed to the gym. We rush to the
gym. Great facility. We watch some of the Indy All-Stars vs The Naptown
Players...These are two competing teams that are crosstown rivals and have a
competitive history that goes back for many, many years.
Also we must mention that the INDY All-Stars host their own Master's Tournament
that takes place in July in the city of Indianapolis. It was a close game when we left to
warm-up on the other side of the gym. When we saw the final score we were surprised...
It wasn't close. The Indy All-Stars, a very, very good team put away Naptown by
about twenty points. Must have been some second half.
We are very excited that it is now our time to compete. Our time to play. We've
been planning for this moment for a few months. As we stretch and lay the ball up
I notice that there is no team on the other court. Are we in the right location? Do
we have the correct game time? We were soon to find out that the Chicago team,
Double Nickel, last year's Champs in the Age 55 & Over Division was still in Chicago.
We have played them before...They had a come from behind win over us last year
at the Detroit Masters. [Madd Madd Shout to Mr Cal Dilworth and the Detroit
Masters Committee 2014/2015 and Zenobia's Stepping and Dance School, Inc.]
They've got a couple of mobile BIGS, and they have great perimeter shooting from their
back-court. They like to bump and grind...They prefer a physical contest. We would
like to see them again...It would not happen on this today. We got the forfeit win and
I started to get a headache. After a thirteen hour ride...The last thing in the world
I wanted was a win by forfeit. We scrimmage amongst ourselves....Then I make
the mistake of challenging Jake "The Snake" McConnell #11 to a game of H.O.R.S.E.,
jump-shots only. I get DESTROYED. So by the end of day one I was 1 win-1 loss.
Saturday Morning 10:00 AM ...We sleep in a little late...and my brother Eddie
does a few video interviews with my teammates. Indiana is a very quiet
community. Most are modest, candid,
statements about being glad to be here on the trip...how good it is to travel and
still be a ballplayer after the BIG 50+.
We head to the gym, some of us without breakfast, and suit up for our contest
with the INDY All-Stars. This INDY team is favored to win the tournament.
They are a veteran ball-club where everyone knows their roll. They play
within their system, and rarely are they out of character or off of their game
plan. They are basically led by "three gears" of basketball operation. Nut,
CJ, and [You Fill in the Blank] [Gear 1]-James "Nut" Adams is a rebounding,
defender who can score. He's a vocal player/coach who is a solid foundation
to their three point attack. He brings the intensity...He's in your face when you
don't do your job...He's leading the attack on defense and on offense. [Gear 2]
Carl Jordan is scoring ball-handler with a famous last name. CJ can get behind
your defense with relative ease, and does a few of those intangibles that puts
a club consistently in the victory column. If you need a steal...He gets you a steal.
If you need a three to end the half...He gives you a three...He can hit the open
3-ball and he can facilitate and feed open players. However, he is most
dangerous in the open court during transition. Keep your eye on him [Gear 3]
The INDY All-Stars' third gear is any one of an assortment of players who can
rebound, play 'D" or hit the open shot...From the low post to the 3 point line,
their players have to be accounted for at all times. Fundamentally sound,
athletic and knowledgeable of the game...They've got a low post presence
and they've got more than a few snipers who can hit that 3-ball with confidence
and consistency. I believe that they are a consistent Top 3 National Team in the
Age 55 and Over Division. A great Club and they are great Individuals. Their
sportsmanship and professionalism is second to none. It wasn't always that way
with us. Let's just say we had to get to know one another over a period of time.
We look to the near future where we can compete against one another again.
I'm still trying to crack the code and find a competitive way to get that INDY
To Be Continued!!