By Rahsaan Thomas
Older men made up the new talent trying out for the San Quentin Kings’ 40 and over basketball team.
On Jan. 28 and 29, the Kings held tryouts for the 2017 season schedule that begins March 11 against the Bittermen.
Bittermen Coach Ted Saltviet assembles players, mostly K-12 school teachers, from the surrounding Bay Area to come to San Quentin for a day of basketball.
After several seasons, 2016 represented the first time the Bittermen ever recorded a winning record against the Kings. This prompted Kings coaches Orlando Harris and Ishmael Freelon to scout the prison for new talent.
“I’m looking for defense, rebounding and a high basketball IQ,” Harris said. Then he paused and added, “I’m looking for dudes who can play together.”
Players who met that profile included new arrivals to the yard, Robert Polzin, 41, who is 6-feet-4, 254 pounds, and Wayne Mobley, 58, who’s 6-feet-7 and 240 pounds. Mobley said he used to play for the University of Milwaukee.
“It would be an honor to play amongst the brothers already here,” Mobley said. “My objective is to make the team better, not necessarily start.”
In the practice consisting of full-court scrimmage games, Polzin and Cooke clicked with the offense, making timely passes and scoring.
“I tried a few different lineups to see how people mesh. I saw some good things,” Harris said. “The size of big men — Polzin, Cooke and Mobley — allows me to go big or small. Now we can match up against anybody.”
Azaad Baker, Anthony Prater and former King Edward Quinn (2008-10) also came to try out.
“I love playing basketball,” Prater said. “It would mean a lot to make the Kings. By being a Christian, I can let my light shine on and off the court.”
Baker came to tryouts because one of the guys on last year’s team asked him to.
“Making the Kings would prove I’m still able to play on a minimum level,” Baker said. “I still have the enthusiasm and will to compete.”
Baker, Quinn and Prater tried out hard but didn’t make the team.
The 2017 Kings are:
Veterans: Oris “Pep” Williams, Thad Fleeton, Tare “Cancun” Beltran, Aubra-Lamont “Coocoo” McNeely, D. “Zayd” Nickolson, Demond Lewis, Charles “Pookie” Sylvester, and Jamal Green.
New Kings included Polzin, Cooke, Mobley, the returning Paul Oliver, 60, and Edward Moss.
“We definitely have a better team this year,” Harris said. “The Bittermen better beware — we’re back.”