Saturday morning. Ian McCarthy, the GM of the PBL's Manchester Millrats basketball team, had previously sent a global e-mail about his team's participation in an upcoming charity / money basketball tournament, the 2nd annual Louis Saunders Memorial Basketball Tournament, being held in Roxbury, Mass.
Having just acquired my Nikon D700 last month (and my new Souldier camera strap last week), I needed to make sure the D700 could handle action shots as well as my D70 could - and without me having to fiddle with the settings during the PBL season. So I let Ian know that I would be attending the event, and after clearing photo access with event promoter James Hall, I found myself driving at the crack of morn to Madison Park High School in Roxbury, for the two-day event.
While the Millrats had several PBL veterans on their squad, including Desmond Ferguson, Al Stewart and Kenyon Gamble, the tournament had several other PBL players scattered throughout their teams, including Sam Carey (Manchester), David Bailey (Halifax), Q Randall (Montreal) and PJ Young (Manchester / Quebec). So it was a great chance for me to check back with everyone that I had photographed last year and see how they were doing and what they were up to and whether they would return to the PBL or update their passports for overseas teams.
I ended up shooting a TON of photos over the two-day event, and some of the best ones can be seen on this slideshow.
I should mention that the D700 has a continuous rapid-fire shutter that allows me, should the need arise, to take as many as five photos per second - perfect for those slam dunks, blocks out of nowhere, and the like. The D700 also allows me to continue shooting in JPG (I had switched between JPG and Nikon's RAW .NEF format last season, but post-processing in .NEF takes forever). Both my 80-200 F/2.8 telephoto and my 85mm F/1.8 performed like champions, and I got some swank swank shots, as you can see from above.
As for the tournament itself, Manchester advanced to the final round, after pulling through the semifinals in double-overtime against a squad whose roster included Glenn "Big Baby" Davis of the Boston Celtics. Dayng. But they could not beat a team called "Mission Hill," who captured their second consecutive title in the tournament.
For those of you who do not know Louis Saunders, I received a lot of knowledge from people at the event, who knew him and remembered him. Louis Saunders coached basketball and football, and many kids who were previously at risk for a life of despair found hope and encouragement and empowerment under his guidance and coaching. He is still missed in the community, and I am certainly sure that over the weekend he was watching the game and smiling down on all those who played and attended.
Sunday morning, however, before the second day of play, I made my own pilgrimage of a different kind.
My beloved grandmother, God rest her soul, is buried in a cemetery that borders Saugus and Melrose - literally on the town line itself. So that morning, I got on Route 1, turned left at the baseball / miniature golf course, drove past Lowe's, turned around in the parking lot of Town Line Tenpins, and arrived at the cemetery. A few private words and some quiet moments of reflection with my grandmother and my grandfather, a prayer, a stone left on each grave marker. My grandmother took care of me when others could not or chose not to, and her care and love and support is a debt I can never fully repay.
Oh, and one more thing. If you ever find yourself in Roxbury and you're hungry for breakfast, go to this diner called the Silver Slipper. Great breakfast food there, and they've got those old 1970's R&B jams playing in the background.