Fleming has sights set on NBA

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Marcus Fleming is four months removed from traveling to cities across the southeastern U.S. as part of the National Basketball Development League.

But now he’s never taken so much joy in riding to Natchez three times a week from his home in Fayette.

Now Fleming, the former Alcorn State standout, is undergoing rehab for a torn ACL he suffered Nov. 21 &045; he remembered the exact day &045; while playing for the Huntsville Flight in the NBDL.

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The injury sacked his first season in the league but not his spirit.

&uot;I’m doing well now,&uot; said Fleming, who led Alcorn to the NCAA tournament last March. &uot;I’m running, jumping and making cuts. Two or three weeks ago I couldn’t do that. I talked to the coach, and I may be ready to play by the summer. The doctor told me by May.&uot;

The injury, however, did put a damper on his spirits a bit as it came during his first season in the league designed to serve as a primary farm system for the NBA. Playing the No. 3 position, Fleming had been with the Flight for a month and was making his first start when he injured his knee, something he thought would put him out for a mere couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, the doctor and the MRI had a different outlook.

&uot;One game I had 27 minutes,&uot; Fleming said. &uot;I led the team in free throw shooting at 90 percent. At Alcorn I nearly couldn’t make a free throw. I’m all right. As long as I know I can go back and play, it doesn’t bother me at all.&uot;

The position he is in now is better since he got drafted by the Florida Sea Dragons of the United States Basketball League while playing in Oklahoma. The Dragons got to him before the Flight did, but things turned out just fine in the long run.

&uot;The coach came to me and said, ‘Marcus, we’ve got to let you go. This team in Florida drafted you,’&uot; Fleming said. &uot;I came back home, flew to Florida, and it was like a turnaround. I was cut the first day I got there. I was late, the coach talked to me and told me I wasn’t what he needed right now.

&uot;He got fired three days later, and the team is no longer.&uot;

Enter the Flight, who picked the three-time first team All-SWAC honoree in the fourth round of last summer’s draft. Fleming was picked among more players from more noteable college programs.

&uot;It gets you ready for the NBA,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s professional all the time. It’s a pretty good league. They kept me well-fed, and you never have to worry about money. They give you $40 a day and a nice place to stay.&uot;

He played alongside Michael Wilks and Brandon Williams, who went on to play in the NBA (Wilks Minnesota, Williams Atlanta). Some of those guys have told Fleming he can get there, too, with some hard work and perseverance.

&uot;That’s my biggest dream right now,&uot; he said. &uot;Guys on my team &045; point guard and wing &045; both of them said, ‘Keep working, and you’ll get there.’ I know I can get there. This is just a minor setback.&uot;

Adam Daigle

is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3632 or by e-mail at