The visiting Prison Sports Ministry (“Green Team”) basketball team improved to a 9-3 record versus the San Quentin Warriors with a 60-46 win using its former college basketball player talent. But, General Manager Robert “Bishop” Butler remembers when the program first began: no nets, no uniforms, basketballs made from cheap plastic, and the home team won every game.
“In 2004, no outside teams won a game; we made sure of that,” said Butler, who played for the Warriors then. “As you started recruiting, players’ caliber started to rise.”
Butler recounted how neglected the basketball program was back in 2003.
Since then, sponsors like Shaun Donahue, Don Smith and Bill Epling have helped the program grow tremendously. The SQ team now plays in real NBA practice jerseys donated by the Golden State Warriors and dunks on fiberglass-breakaway rims donated by Prison Sports Ministry. More importantly, the level of talent includes former overseas pros and recruiters of former college basketball players, mostly from Claremont-McKenna College.
At the Oct. 21 game, two fresh 6-foot-5 recruits from Claremont-McKenna joined the ranks: Richard Harris (class of 2016) and Riley Hall (class of 2017).
“I’ve heard about this for years, so I’ve been excited to come,” Hall said. “I just graduated in May, and I’ve been missing basketball.”
Former D-Leaguer Evan Fjeld returned with University of Vermont “Catamounts” alumnus Luke Apfeld.
Claremont alumnus Kevin “K-Mac” Macpherson mentioned that the guests had to sign papers acknowledging that the state will not negotiate for the return of hostages.
“If that’s the case, I hope my jump shot is falling,” joked Apfeld.
“The basketball here better be good then,” Macpherson added.
The game also marked the return of Warrior forward Anthony Ammons. He had been in the Los Angeles County jail awaiting a sentencing hearing. He came back pale, 10 pounds lighter and depressed because he has to go back in January to finish the fight for lesser time.
The Warriors came out aggressive on the opening tip.
Warrior Andre “NBA” Belion set the tone with a layup in traffic for the first basket of the game. The Warriors played great defense, keeping the Green Team to 60 points.
However, the Warriors’ leading scorers were off while Fjeld was on. Fjeld dropped 24 points, doubling the Warriors’ top offensive weapon Allan McIntosh’s 12 points. Harry “ATL” Smith was held to 12 points by the 6-foot-7 Apfeld, and Tevin Fournette, who recently recovered from a high ankle injury, went 0-7 from the field.
In the third quarter, Harris batted one of Fournette’s shot attempts into the fence with a “get that out of here” authority.
By the end of the third quarter, the Green Team led 47-29.
Warriors Coach Rafael Cuevas wants to win every game, but he sees what happens on the green-blue court as something much bigger than basketball.
“This is a service you’re doing for us,” Cuevas said. “You show your humanity just by coming through that door. (When you visit), I see God coming in.”