An unrelenting rain beat down on the city of Vicksburg on Friday night, July 22. That rain didn’t seem to keep anyone away from the action at the River City Summer Basketball League, or River City League for short.
The stands were mostly filled with friends, family and people from the neighborhood at the Jackson Street Community Center (923 Walnut St., Vicksburg). Local strength and conditioning coach Ehaab Bayoumi worked the players through stretches and how to workout lingering injuries before they start play for the night.
Bayoumi worked for Jackson State University for a short time but is now the strength and conditioning coach for some of the best high-school and college kids in the state. He was quick to run down the list of players he has helped if it looked like a player wasn’t paying total attention to his words.
Several players on the floor are using the River City League to stay or get into shape before the next basketball season starts, including Chris Hyche.
Hyche is a former Provine High School and JSU star and is getting ready to resign with the World All-Stars, the team that now travels the world to get beaten by the Harlem Globetrotters. He hopes to be able to work his way onto the Globetrotters’ roster.
Jackson Showboats guard and ABA All-Star Will Werner is also using the league to get ready for the upcoming season. Werner burst on the scene at last year’s River City League to earn a spot on the Showboats roster.
Former Wingfield and Belhaven star Krayleon Winston has been a long time Showboat. But he has flirtations from the D-League and a contract offer from the Jacksonville Giants, a more established ABA team.
For some players, such as former Mississippi Valley State University star Jurmelle Hall, the RCL is a chance to get noticed again. Hall is working to get his basketball career going but had a rough night, as a lingering injury kept him off the court.
But for others, the RCL might be their only chance to continue their basketball career. Darrie Ollie spent some time at East Mississippi Community College and had a tryout at Coahoma Community College, but his grades have kept him off the court in college. He was highly coveted by MSVU until his grades derailed his chances of going.
Ollie was one of stars of the night, with a dunk that shook the rim and brought everyone in the house to their feet. He had other rim-rattling dunks and shots that were highlight worthy.
Hyche stole the night with his play. He grabbed alley-oop after alley-oop and slammed it down on just about any defender who tried to hold him. If he wasn’t catching alley-oops, he was throwing them to teammates.
The former Provine star knew he could take over the game at anytime and did when it suited him. He went on a highlight barrage in the final game of the night as he hit jump shots and made fantastic dunks.
Overall, the players in the RCL are polishing their game. Nearly every player had trouble finishing at the rim on easy shots. There was some ball-watching instead of crashing the boards for rebounds.
Ball and player movement lagged at times, but overall, it was an up-and-down the court affair. There were a few hard fouls, but players usually came together and bumped fists before anything anyone got really mad.
The River City League is a chance for players to keep their basketball dreams alive.
The league is free to the public, and play begins at 6:30 p.m. each Friday.