By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
As the West Fourth Street Basketball League begins postseason play, keep your eyes and ears open for such asphalt stars as the next Marbury clone, a glass-cleaner named Darren, and a gang that can shoot straight. Here's a rundown of the top teams heading into the Village's own Final Four:
Chaz Hoop (8-1)Coach Chaz Dudley's squad, which meets All-Out (6-2) in a first-round playoff game on August 15, has made it to six Final Fours and three championship games the past nine seasons and never won the big one. Dudley's elusive championship dream rests squarely on the muscular shoulders of MVP candidate Jermaine "Sunshine" Smith, a 6-2 point guard out of UNLV who is averaging 24 points and nine assists per game.
"Jermaine is a Stephon Marbury clone, and he's my best pro prospect," said Dudley. "He's been one of our most consistent go-to guys all season."
Smith, who played for the USBL's Long Island Surfs two years ago, will be looking inside for 7-foot Neil Edwards, a little-known player from York College in Queens who Dudley says has drawn major interest from the Los Angeles Clippers.
United Brooklyn (8-1)If coach Dudley thinks he's long overdue, consider the plight of UB coach Sid Jones, who has been trying to win a West Fourth Street championship for the past 25 years. On August 14, Jones's crew squared off against Karriem's All-Stars (4-4), who are led by Rucker Park legend and Milwaukee Buck Rafer "Skip to My Lou" Alston.
United Brooklyn is led by the Franchise himself, 6-8 power forward John Strickland, a 30-point scorer who nearly made Pat Riley's Knick roster back in the early 1990s. Strickland, a former star with the IBL's Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs, is joined by another 30-point scorer, 6-4 shooting guard Corey Williams, and 6-7 glass-cleaner Darren Phillips, who led the nation in rebounding two seasons ago while at Fairfield and now plays professionally in Spain.
"We had the best team a few years ago, but many of our top players had to go overseas before our playoffs began," said Jones. "You have to be both good and a little lucky to win at West Fourth, but if we stay together as one this season, we can do it."
Nike One (8-1)Former Oklahoma Central star Junie Sanders has been pumping in 30 points per game. Sanders, whose team meets Fireball (5-3) on Thursday evening, is joined in the backcourt by Lamont "I Am My Brother's Keeper" Jones, who is best known for being the younger brother of former LIU star and Chicago Bull Charles Jones.
"There hasn't been a backcourt tandem all season capable of stopping us," said Sanders. "Do I like our chances? Yeah, I like 'em a lot."
The Youngsters (8-1)Led by 6-10 shot-blocker Shane "Captain Nappy" Drisdom and smooth shooting guard Sean "Make My Day" Eastwood, the Youngsters opened up their playoffs with a 131-91 ass-whipping of Ashanti Tribe last Thursday.
Message sent, young fellas.