On May 13, the outside volunteer Green team returned to the Lower Yard for the basketball season opener against the San Quentin Warriors, beating them 84-76.
Team captain Bill Epling led the Green team with some new and familiar faces. All of his teammates had notable height and the Warriors referred to them as “trees,” acknowledging that their size would make a difficult game.
David Schmelter, the tallest member of the Green team, played for almost the entire game, sustaining a cut under his eye, but afterward, he smiled and shook hands. He described the experience as an eye-opener, noting a high level of kindness and brotherhood.
“Basketball shaped who I am as a man,” said Schmelter. “It teaches qualities like how to interact and work with others as a team — how to work hard and overcome.”
Ted Hahs, another member of the Green team, declared San Quentin the most fun place at which he has ever played. Hahs has come here for nearly 20 years. Recalling a striking memory, he told a story of residents praying for his son during a difficult time.
“You’d think this place would be dangerous, but it is safe,” Hahs said. “These guys give more than they get.”
Besides the game, another story lies in the incarcerated players — why they play and what playing does for them. Epling discussed the power of connection in his post-game remarks.
“When someone preaches, you can reject it,” Epling said. “But when someone tells a story, you can’t just dismiss it.”
The bout presented many difficulties for the teams. They both struggled bitterly, but the Warriors used some of the “trees” in their team. While the Green Team maintained a lead for most of the time, the Warriors kept the score close until the very end.
Despite the loss, three Warriors stood out for their impressive game play. Sadiq Davis scored 27 points, with eight rebounds and three steals. Khurazee “Sauce” Williams earned 22 points, four rebounds, two steals and one block. Mason Ryan surprised no one with an impressive 18 points, five assists and three steals.
“Sauce” Williams asked to come to San Quentin because he had read about its basketball program. He said that many people do not understand the benefits of athletics in prisons. He added that staying in a cell all day in other prisons negatively affected his mental health and he called basketball a large part of his rehabilitation.
“This game lowers my anxiety, reduces my stress, and helps keep my anger down,” Williams said. “It keeps down the negative and opens me to life.” Williams has since paroled.
“When I started, I was on the chopping block,” Taiosis “CC” Matangi, the guard of the team, said. “The coaches gave me a chance and I’ve been working hard since.”
Warriors Coach Jeremiah Brown and his coaching team take an active role in promoting the growth of positive attitudes in their players. According to Brown, this season isn’t just about winning games, it’s about helping the players become better men.
“Leaving someone in a cell just makes them mad,” said Brown. “Contemplation is not rehabilitation. Activities to develop tools are rehabilitation.”
“Everyone I’ve seen go home since I joined, none have come back to prison,” said Delvy “Relly” Adams, the most senior member of the Warriors. “One struggled, but he didn’t come back.”