Written by Brianna Nadal
Draft Day Recap
On Sunday June 4th, The Venice Basketball League kicked off the 18th season with Draft Day hosted by the legendary NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. Over 120 hopefuls pulled up to Hooper’s Paradise to participate in a grueling combine, testing skill, strength, and conditioning over three rounds of workouts. The Top 40 moved on to on-court battles including King of the Court 1s, the To the Top Challenge, and an open run. In the end, only 14 skilled hooper’s were able to leave as inductees in the VBL ‘23 Draft Class. The rookie joy was short-lived. In our annual Draftees vs VBL Vets game, the new class was shown the ropes by an all-star lineup of the VBL’s stars in their “welcome to the VBL” game, which the VBL Vets took home with ease.
Omari Ferguson from Chicago, Illinois went number one overall in this year’s draft to team Urban Necessities. The best part of draft day for him was the chance to showcase his talent and receive recognition for his game. Omari says to expect hard work, humility, and highlights from him this season, which he delivered in spades on Draft Day, earning his first VBL Sit Down on a poster moment in 2v2s. He also noted that along with his father, who encouraged him to play at a young age, Elvin Rodriguez, alum of Netflix’s Hustle and standout basketball influencer, is among his biggest basketball inspirations and helped him to connect with the Venice Basketball League.
Darius Carr aka Baby Grinch
Hometown hero, Darrius Carr, also known as Baby Grinch has been with the VBL since day one. He has been connected with Venice his whole life, being brought to the KVBL, the Kids Venice Basketball League, by his father an OG player who helped to bring the league to life in the early days of the VBL. Darius said he came to the draft with the mentality, “it’s my court. I’ve been playing here since I could walk. I’ve seen it all.” Last season, in a one-off-appearance, an 18 year old Darrius dropped 44 points in one of the season’s best performances. We’re looking forward to seeing what Baby Grinch can put up on a week to week basis.
After two years playing D3 basketball at Texas Schreiner, the #5 overall pick to team Mecca, suffered a knee injury which sidelined his college career. #5 Aries Frederick is looking forward to the exposure of Veniceball and hoping to use the platform to return to a college program next year. Speaking on his favorite part of draft day, Aries loved getting a workout from TO in the sand and is excited to take his game to new heights in the ‘23 season. When you don’t find him on the Venice Courts, Aries is an accomplished trainer and terrorizer of YMCA runs across the West Side. We’re looking forward to seeing his continued growth this season.
Before the draft, we had the pleasure of speaking with James Prescott from Iowa Western who would go on to become the seventh draft pick to team Timeless. James said he is “looking to cross everyone that steps foot at the beach this summer.” As he looks to transfer to a four-year college, the 6’2 guard describes his play style as a shifty combo player who can create, getting both himself and his teammates buckets. He says he plays it all, would love to crossover Kyrie Irving, and stamps himself early as the best point guard at the draft.
All the way from Montenegro, bigman Damjan Vukcevic went third overall to the reigning champs, In the Lab, in this year’s draft. Damjan highlighted the differences of basketball in Venice vs his home country. He was taken aback by the faster pace, and everyone’s eagerness to play one on one. At 7’1 Damjan caught everyone’s attention from the second he walked on the court, where he showed the ability to get out and move in transition and score from the block.
In the Rookies vs VBL veteran’s game, Damjan had the misfortune of an introduction to Brandon Moss aka Bodybag, who put one down on the Montenegrin on a tipped rebound. After his sit down, Damjan said that getting dunked on doesn’t feel good but he still appreciated the good play and anticipates keeping his head up when Bodybag is around.