By Rahsaan Thomas
San Quentin Warrior Harry “ATL” Smith scored 31 points against former overseas-pro basketball players to help his team survive a last second surge by Christian Sports Ministries. The Warriors won 87-84.
“We could not stop ATL today. He was awesome,” said Evan Fjeld, who played professionally overseas in the NBA’s D-League and is called the Plumber in San Quentin for flushing down slam-dunks.
Known as the “Green Team” on San Quentin’s Lower Yard for the color of their jerseys, Christian Sports Ministries brings in former pro and college players to compete against the Warriors twice a month.
For the Nov. 5 game, the Green Team enlisted three former overseas pros: Fjeld; Blake Schultz, 28, a Williams College Division 3 Player of the Year; and Ted Hahs, 46, who is now a pastor. (transformourworld.org)
Golden State Warriors Assistant General Manager Kirk Lacob both coached and participated in the game, while his sister, Kyci Lacob, a Stanford student, took photographs with both digital and film cameras for a project.
Despite seeing the height and talent coming toward the court, the Warriors were determined to win.
“We haven’t won in a long time. Let’s get this long-overdue win,” Warrior Coach Daniel Wright told his team in a pre-game huddle.
The Warriors came out with great energy, taking a 30-20 first quarter lead with the aid of nine steals.
The 6-foot-11 Hahs came alive in the second quarter, helping his team come back with turnaround short-range shots. He finished with a team high 23 points.
The Green Team took a 42-41 lead at halftime where Hahs gave an inspiration talk, after Green Team Sponsor Don Smith and Lacob warmed up the crowd of players, coaches, refs and scorekeepers.
Normally Green Team sponsor Bill Epling opens with a joke, but he couldn’t attend the game, so Smith filled in.
“The advantage of Bill not being here is we don’t have to listen to a joke,” joked Don Smith.
Lacob spoke next, introducing the crowd to his sister, who he joked would try her best to make everyone look good in the photos. Then he remarked seriously, “The ESPN piece came out very good. I think it will do a lot of positive things.”
Lacob referred to a six-minute piece ESPN aired that features interviews with San Quentin Warriors and footage of Draymond Green and Kevin Durant hanging out on the yard when San Quentin played the Golden State Warriors organization on Sept. 24.
Next Hahs joked, “The first time I came in here, I was a little scared, nervous, but you guys are more polite than a pickup game in the street, especially church pickup. You guys are more saved than the pastors.”
Then Hahs preached about how God can use everybody for a good purpose. “I believe the Lord wants to teach you to pray in another dimension,” said Hahs. “I believe the Lord wants to train you how to fight for people like homeless 13-year-old girls.”
During a huddle before the start of the second half Wright told his team, “Y’all are 4-8 against these dudes. Beat them at the rim.”
Harry “ATL” Smith responded. He used his 6-foot-5 frame to out body the bigger Hahs in the paint and score.
The Warriors led 85-75 with 2:09 minutes left in the fourth, but the Green Team made another run, cutting the lead to 85-81 with 21 seconds on the clock. They fouled Smith to stop the clock.
After Smith hit one of two free throws in his 31 points, 15-rebound performance, the Warriors were ahead 86-81 with 17 seconds left in regulation.
On the other end of the court, Green Team’s Sam Lacy missed a three point attempt.
The Green Team fouled Warrior Rafael Cuevas, stopping the clock at 6 seconds. He made one of two from the line, increasing the lead to 87-81.
Former Wake Forest player Kyle Fowler nailed a three-pointer to bring the Green team within three at 87-84 with 2 seconds on the clock.
Green Team’s Johnas Street picked off Warrior Allan McIntosh’s inbound pass and dumped the ball to Lacy, who stood at the top of the arc. Lacy hesitated, then stepped back and shot a three that clanked off the rim too late to count.
Wright smiled after out coaching Lacob.
“I was hoping to be like Luke Walton when Steve Kerr couldn’t coach (the Golden State Warriors),” joked Lacob. “Apparently, I’m no Luke.”
Kyci Lacob remarked that her first time in a prison was, “a lot of fun. Everybody was so friendly. It was eye opening. I’m gonna tell my friends to get involved.”
Harry Smith added, “Honestly, I just really appreciate these guys coming in here and sharing their lives – it’s a beautiful thing.”