“The Sitdown” presented by Ball Up Streetball – Professor Talks Ball Up, the Fight in China, and more!
Back in the early 2000’s, streetball was starting to become more and more popular as it turned more mainstream and gained its first TV show on ESPN. That’s when streetball transformed Grayson Boucher into The Professor as he became one of the more popular streetball players of this generation. It’s been around eleven years since Professor was first introduced to the streetball scene, and it seems like he hasn’t turned back as he’s still wowing crowds with his quick handle and smooth J. Professor is now with Ball Up Streetball and has been touring with them for the last few years, and we were able to catch up with him and talk about Ball Up, how streetball has changed, and more.
BIL: What Ball Up’s doing now with the chance to win a contract is how you made your way onto the streetball scene. Do you remember your first open run and first game and what emotions you were going through?
Professor: Definitely, man. Actually, for me the first day I wasn’t as emotional before the game because I was going out there knowing there was an open run, but I wasn’t really going out there looking for a job. I was going there just to have a good time. I was going to play in the open run, but if I didn’t end up making the game or getting picked up for the tour, I would’ve been cool because I was really just a fan.
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I think for a lot of guys they have a different mindset coming out to these open runs because they are really fighting for a contract. For me, I knew that’s what it was about, but I was really just trying to have a good time and enjoy myself. Looking back, it was pretty tight because it was a recreational opportunity that turned into a career opportunity just within one day.
BIL: Yeah that’s what’s up. So, do you have any advice for those guys participating in the open runs and fighting to win that contract?
Professor: Yeah, I do. First off, what I would tell them is that streetball and basketball are not really two separate genres. They’re identified as two different genres, but for me streetball is a style you play within basketball. I know a lot of guys that have it confused, so I would tell guys if you’re not known as a good basketball player and you just have some freestyle dribbling moves or just known for being fancy but you can’t really compete at a high level, it’s going to be tough. Don’t treat this (streetball) as a separate genre, it’s all basketball. The guys are on our team all can compete a high level, have decent fundamental skills, and can put on a show. That’s the advice I would give. Other than that, just come out and really have fun with it.
BIL: You’ve been in and out of the streetball game for about 10 years now. Do you think anything has changed with streetball?
Professor: Yeah, I think when I started out, especially with the And 1 Mixtape Tour on ESPN, streetball was really introducing it to the mainstream nationwide, because a lot of the famous streetball leagues were in the northeast, but there wasn’t a whole lot of streetball on the west coast nor in the south. I think at that time it was really an introductory thing. I think the original guys (of the And 1 Mixtape Tour) were great and entertained to a high level, but I also feel now that there is a higher level of basketball. Past guys were able to make it on the bus, and in games they weren’t as strong. I would say we have a better squad now as far as being competitive from 1-10. We had some great squads with And 1 too, but I really like our Ball Up Squad.
From a brand standpoint, Ball Up is different than And 1. With And 1, the clothing line was the main entity and that’s what they were pushing at all times while the tour was on the side of that. With Ball Up, the tour is the main entity and everything else is on the side. We are really trying to focus and put an emphasis on the tour, and the goal is to try to bring it more mainstream. We’re only in year 3 right now, so there’s more growing to do, but the goal is to bring it more mainstream rather than having it be an urban, more underground type thing. Different objectives, different ways of branding.
BIL: What do you think about the upcoming Ball Up tour? Seems like it’s going to be crazy.
Professor: I’m excited man. Super excited. This tour is really about exposure; it’s about awareness. Every year there’s been growth. We’re starting out with these ten games. For Season 1, we played our games in Los Angeles with Fox Sports shooting on sight, and it was about exposure, sort of a show-and-prove thing, and we did really well. Last year, we took it on the road to ten cities, and we had some great attendance. And coming off our last tour, we went to China and played two D1-pro teams from China, where I thought we competed well and went head to head, but yeah, I’m excited man. We just got done with camp today and our first game is on Saturday. I just love the game no matter where I play, but this tour being our main TV tour in the US I’m real excited.
BIL: Yeah, China must’ve been crazy. I’ve seen the video you posted where that dude from China got heated after you head-bopped him. Can you tell us what happened there?
Professor: For me, I always just assume that if anybody plays in a streetball game that they know a little bit on how we get down, so I assumed he knew that going in. When I did it, it’s not like I’m trying to disrespect the guy. I’ve been doing that move for a while and it gets the crowd up. I think he was frustrated because I had scored a couple plays before that; I did a bunch of moves that got the crowd into it. I think he fell on one of the plays, then I hit a jumper, and all of those possessions were right in a row. So, when I came back and hit him on the head, I think it was just a pour over of frustration and embarrassment from previous plays. And the dude was pretty young, probably in his early 20’s, so maybe he didn’t watch streetball before. With the language barrier, it’s always tough to know what people are thinking, but I know he wasn’t happy. He wasn’t shaking no hands or accepting any apologies. I was telling the media over there I didn’t mean no disrespect, but I’m not going to conform to their style of play. We play streetball. Why would I go away from our game when that’s what got us there, you know?
BIL: Exactly, but going back to last year’s tour, I know you were hurt, so how tough was it to not play and have to watch? Are you going to come out crazy this year and are we going to see a bunch of stuff we haven’t seen from you before?
Professor: Oh, yeah. Honestly, every year I try to come with at least two or three new moves. Last year, obviously, not playing was a bummer as I was dying to get out there, but at the same time it taught me a lot of patience. I was able to grow in that regards, and the year before that, I had a couple of injuries and issues. So, I actually have some new stuff saved up that I haven’t brought out yet, and I’m really excited about bringing it out.
BIL: Can’t wait for that. What continues to inspire you to keep coming up with new moves and keep entertaining the crowd the way you do?
Professor: For me, basketball has always been the same. You would think since I’ve been in the game…I think it’s my eleventh year now…but people still always look at me as an underdog. Some might think I’m a favorite since I’ve been in the game for a long time, but still most people think they have the edge on me because I’m like a smaller white dude. For me, I love being an underdog, and that’s what’s motivated me most. I’m there to let people know that I can really play at a high level no matter what: basketball, streetball or whatever, and that I can still put on a show. That’s really my motivation most of the time. Overall, the last few years of my life I really have dedicated everything to spreading the word of God and using basketball as a tool for that, and that’s my foundational motivation above everything.
Professor has been doing his thing for eleven years now, and is continuing to put on a show. If you want to see the Professor play live, or even want a chance to compete against him, check out ballup.com for more details.
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