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Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007
Saitama's James holds his own in NYC hoops tournament
By ED ODEVEN
"If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere," legendary crooner Frank Sinatra told us in "New York, New York."
The same sentiment sums up Saitama Broncos power forward Gordon James' feelings about playing basketball in the Big Apple's fiercely competitive summer leagues.
Just ask him.
After all, James' memory contains fresh recollections of this summer's EBC Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem, where he said he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for Dream Team in a recent five-game tournament, which featured dozens of NBA, college, overseas and streetball standouts.
"(I was) having a lot of fun," James wrote in an e-mail, "but my most important concern was to not get hurt out there. At the Rucker, guys are always trying to prove themselves, because if you can hold your own there, you can hold your own anywhere.
"That atmosphere is like none other."
For decades, a who's who of basketball legends have showcased their skills at Rucker Park, including old-time stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Nate "Tiny" Archibald and Connie Hawkins, while contemporary favorites such as Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson have also earned their share of fanfare at the famous Harlem court.
Recent coverage in the New York Daily News underscores the historical significance and present-day prestige of Rucker Park.
In a recent feature story in the Daily News, Michael Obernauer wrote an informative piece about this summer's EBC Classic at Rucker Park. The story included a flattering description of James, who led the bj-league in rebounds during the 2006-07 season.
"He could give Dennis Rodman fits all day," Dream Team coach Norm Ostrin said of James in the Aug. 8 article.
James, a native of Guyana who later settled in New York City, was one of 10 players out of more than 200 who made the final roster for Dream Team. The EBC Classic's other seven teams, however, didn't go through this exhausting process.
For James, there was a grueling round of open tryouts for the summer ball team. It started in May.
During the tryouts and in the games, James' tenacity and physical play caught the eye of Ostrin, a veteran of the Big Apple's basketball scene.
James' team, by the way, went 2-3 in the EBC Classic's eight-team Division A. The short-season league wrapped up last week.
For James, the EBC Classic proved to be great preparation for the upcoming bj-league season.
"Everyone plays in the Rucker, I mean everyone," James said. "Players coming back from overseas like myself, as well as NBA players such as (Sacramento Kings forward) Ron Artest. He (Artest) played in about two different tournaments I know of, including the Rucker.
"He was definitely the strongest player in the Rucker this year, besides myself."
Now James is preparing for the upcoming bj-league season and will return to the Broncos, playing for ex-teammate David Benoit, the team's new head coach.
Asked about the challenges Benoit, who spent several seasons in the NBA, will face in his new job, James offered this insight:
"David's experience as a player will definitely aid in (his) becoming a successful coach. In order for him to succeed as a coach, he will have to know the strengths and weaknesses of each individual player on his team, and as a result learn to utilize the best suitable five players for each needed situation.
"I'm confident in David."