When it comes to basketball, this park’s players have game

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 16, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Forget about the NBA games and SWAC tournaments &045; the pick-up games at North Natchez Park are as real as it gets.

By 2:30 p.m. Sunday, a group of Natchez High students and one Alcorn student had already played hard for 3 1/2 hours and showed no signs of stopping due to rain.

&uot;We stay here sometimes ’til 5 o’clock, Š and we’re out here every day, or every other day,&uot; one player said over his shoulder, returning to the game.

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Scrambling for a missed free throw, sprinting past the defense to make a lay-up, outright fouling and hard falls &045; nothing was missing in this game.

For Cortland Sago, 19 &045; &uot;aka Superstar,&uot; he called out &045; the strategy was to fake right six or seven times before lunging to the left to make the shot.

&uot;Jor-dan! Jor-dan!&uot; he shouted after one long shot that whooshed through the net during the &uot;Detroit style,&uot; or 21-point, game.

For almost all the players, dazzling the other players with quick dribbles between the legs was also a favorite distraction technique, although Derrick Carter, 17, chose to dribble it behind his back.

And as with any game &045; professional, school or pick-up &045; trash talking was just another part of the strategy.

&uot;I’m gonna make it,&uot; Sago repeated over and over at one point, teasing the two players attempting to block his shot.

Others took it more seriously. &uot;Snap when I tell you. Get ready,&uot; Lorenzo Green called over his shoulder to the other players at one point, his face turning serious for just a second.

No one took it too seriously, though, as shown by the peals of good-natured laughter and pats on the back that punctuated the game.

&uot;We’ve been playing ever since we (were) little,&uot; Carter said.

And they show no signs of stopping.