May 28, 2009
Chris Sykes and Elmo Brown have plenty of basketball left.
Now the 34-year-old former Aberdeen High School and Delta State standout has to convince someone he''s right.
Sykes and Brown, 34, a former basketball player at Columbus High, are two of 10 players on the roster for the Tupelo Rock-n-Rollers of the World Basketball Association Exposure League. They hope to use the league to showcase their talent and to land another job that will pay them to play professional basketball.
"My whole goal playing in this league is to further myself to get overseas or to get a nice contract or whatever comes about," Sykes said.
The league, which has six teams and is in its sixth season, was founded in 2003 to teach, to develop, and to expose basketball players to NBA, NBA - Development League, Continental Basketball Association, and international scouts. It is designed to be a training ground to develop professional players, coaches, and personnel on and off the court.
Sykes played for Steve Rives at Delta State, where he was a three-time All-Gulf South Conference selection. He was named the conference''s Freshman of the Year and the Gulf South Conference tournament MVP in 1997.
The three-time NABC All-American finished his career at Delta State fourth on the school''s all-time scoring list (1,539 points), third in rebounding (925), first in free throw attempts (712) and free throws made (436), and second in blocked shots (118).
Sykes went on to play professional basketball in Chile for seven months and in Argentina for another seven months.
Sykes said he earned $4,000 a month in Chile (where he was the only American on the team) and $7,000 a month in Argentina (where there were two other Americans on the team). He said he had received offers to return to Argentina but he opted to return home to be with his family and his new-born girl, Tamarah, who is now 9.
Sykes, who still lives in Aberdeen, drove a truck from 2000-04 before he returned to the court to play for the ABA''s Mississippi Stingers in Greenville.
He has been driving a truck for the past four years and playing pickup basketball when he has the chance. The opportunity to play in the WBA Exposure League was a chance he couldn''t let slip away.
"I feel I have got a few more years left in me," said Sykes, who said he has an "all-around game." The 6-foot-6 forward said he is at about 70 percent and hopes to get down from his current weight of 265 pounds to 248.
If Sykes can accomplish that goal, he feels he will be able to impress someone to earn another contract. He said he doesn''t have an agent but likely will hire one to help him explore his options.
"I feel like my chances are real good to get a job out of this, especially if I keep working and getting myself in better shape and down to my playing weight," Sykes said. "If I get down there the sky is the limit."
Brown went to Columbus High in 1992 and then attended West Brook High School in Beaumont, Texas. He later went through the General Educational Development (GED) process to earn the equivalent of his high school diploma.
Brown then attended East Mississippi Community College before landing at Rust College, a Division III school in Holly Springs, where he earned his bachelor''s degree in social science.
From Rust College, Brown played two years with the Harlem Ambassadors, a traveling show basketball team.
Brown has stayed active with Sykes on GTA travel basketball team out of Columbus. He works for Riverside Trucking Company and said he is excited about the opportunity to land a job as a professional basketball player.
"I never lost the step," said Brown, a 6-1, 175-point combination guard. "I never had any injuries, and I always said I was going to go hard back at it and then I would give it up."
Brown contemplated an opportunity last year with the Mississippi Hardhats, a team in the World Basketball Association, but he opted to stay with his full-time trucking job.
This time, though, he feels the opportunity with the Rock-n-Rollers could lead to something bigger.
"I am trying to get a little exposure and to get my name out there," said Brown, who was married last June. "I hope by staying with this that the outcome will be better in the long run.
"I like my chances. Anything can happen, and I don''t want to sell myself short. I am going to go hard at it and whatever happens, happens. At least I can say I tried."
Tupelo lost its season opener to the defending league champion Decatur Court Kings on Saturday in Tupelo. The Rock-n-Rollers will face the Cartersville Baseline Warriors at 7 p.m. Friday at the St. Paul''s Christian Life Center in Tupelo. Tickets are $6.
The league will play a 10-game schedule that will run through the end of June.
Former WBA Exposure League players Jamario Moon, who was a member of the NBA''s Miami Heat this season, and Josh Powell, who is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, are two of the most notable WBA Exposure League players.
Other players have signed contracts to play basketball overseas or moved on to the NBDL or the American Basketball Association, which has more than 30 teams in cities throughout the country. That league''s season goes from December to March.
In February, the CBA, which had only four teams, halted its regular season.
Tupelo Rock-n-Rollers owner Russell Brooks said his players receive s small stipend to play in the league. He said the main thrust of the league is to promote its players by sending out statistics and videos of the games to scouts in the NBA, the United States, and overseas.
He said more than 20 players from the WBA Exposure League have gone on to play in the NBA, and more than 200 have gone on to play overseas.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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