Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2007
By David Shaw
New Orleans Hornets reserve Bobby Jackson came full circle Wednesday night.
The former all-solar system guard for Salisbury High School returned to the gym where his legend was born and gave an enthusiastic ó and somewhat dehydrated ó crowd of more than 1,000 another warm memory.
“This is where it all started,” Jackson said before his annual all-star extravaganza against a team headed by Charlotte Bobcats reserve Jeff McInnis. “From high school on, this is where I made my name. It’s great to be back.”
He felt even better after a 125-124 victory, secured when former South Rowan star Carlos Dixon swiped the ball from Mcnnis with four seconds to play.
Jackson spent the night signing autographs, swapping fast-break passes and pulling up for 3-pointers. But he wore a smile that could light up Times Square when public address announcer Tim Bates called him “Bobby Lee Jackson” after a first-half jumper that caught nothing but net.
“That’s what they called me when I was here,” Jackson said after scoring 17 points. “Tim was just being funny, but I haven’t been called Bobby Lee in a long time ó just when I come back home.”
If McInnis has his way, the nickname will be coming soon to an NBA showroom near you.
“I’m gonna spread that one around the league,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t even realize he was from here. Then I saw his jersey on the wall. Now I’m gonna tell everyone he’s Bobby Lee.”
And so the legend grows.
CALL ME CARLOS: No MVP was awarded, but Dixon was the best player on the floor.
He finished with 30 points ó 19 in the second half ó and made the game-saving steal. Now prepping for his third professional season, he hopes to return to Nanajing, China, where he averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game and was named team MVP for a third-place club last year. That ain’t chop suey, folks. Along the way he got an off-court education.
“It’s not a bad thing,” the slender, 6-foot-6 swingman said. “I got to see the world, the money’s good and I’ve seen things I’d never seen before. Me and some of my teammates walked 12 miles of the Great Wall.”
A major drawback was the food.
“I lost 17 pounds because you can’t eat it,” he said. “It’s not like Chinese food over here. They have McDonald’s and KFC, so I didn’t starve.”
Dixon, now 25, had the fortune of playing against 6-10 forward Yi Jianlian, Milwaukee’s first-round pick in last month’s NBA draft.
“His team was in our conference, and we beat them twice in the regular season,” Dixon said. “But they put us out in the playoffs. He’s very agile ó he can run, jump and shoot 15-footers. He just needs to get stronger. Give him two years in the NBA and he’ll be a good player.”
nPAUL-LESS: Ex-Wake Forest standout Chris Paul, a teammate of Jackson’s in New Orleans who participated in a local charity golf tournament last weekend, wasn’t in the house. He spent the day in Los Angeles taping a Gatorade commercial and was scheduled to attend the ESPY Awards last night.
nRICKY, DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER: Former Division I player and Livingstone College student Ricky Clemons suited up for Jackson’s squad and can still hit shots from the parking lot. He drained three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points just a few weeks after returning from a pro season in Poland.
“I played well against some of the top teams,” he said. “Now I’m looking to get into Turkey or France. I’m trying to move up every year and just keep playing. That’s what I do. I just want to solidify my career overseas. Then anything can happen.”
nFAMILY MAN: Rodney Gidney’s odometer has hit age 30, but the former Livingstone bruiser still hopes to land a pro deal after taking a year off to help care for his infant daughter.
“The door is still open,” said Gidney, an IT specialist in Charlotte who has worked out with McInnis this summer. “I’m getting offers to play in Europe, China, Japan. I’ve stayed in contact with my same people. It’s a possibility, but I’ve always got to take care of home first.”
nLOCAL FLAVOR:Among the county stars from yesteryear on hand were sharpshooter Ed Suber (19 points, four 3s), Bryan McCullough and Terris Sifford.Sifford just completed his first full pro season in Germany. To this day, he credits high school coach Mike Gurley of West Rowan with planting seeds that have produced a lifetime harvest.
“Gurley emphasized things ó especially defensively ó that got me through college and landed me overseas,” he said. “I’m grateful to him.”
Sifford, sidelined the last month of his season with a broken right foot, plays in a Mooresville summer league.
He’d like to return to Germany or perhaps the Middle East in the fall.
“Every kid has a dream to go play ball somewhere,” he noted. “I just got lucky and got a chance.”
nHIT ME DEEP: Among the sweltering spectators was former North Carolina quarterback Ronald Curry, a Spencer resident whose wife Stacie is a North Rowan graduate. With a pair of torn left achilles injuries behind him, he spent last autumn as the Oakland Raiders’ leading receiver and recently signed a five-year contract extension. Later this month he’ll stop working out at the YMCA and report to training camp in Napa Valley, Calif.
“I’m healthy all the way across the board,” he said with a smile. “The Raiders always do things their way. They’ve made some good moves. It’s just about our time.”
nContact David Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.