Local hoops tourney has star power
Possibility that NBA stars will turn up adds to fun of Dallas Fed X Pro/Am
Gary Dotson never expected a basketball tournament among FedEx employees to evolve over the years to include the likes of NBA players Derek Harper, Dominique Wilkins, Sam Perkins, Mark Aguirre and Spud Webb.
But as Dotson prepares to host his 24th annual Dallas Fed X Pro/Am Basketball Classic at Carrollton's IAD Sports Complex on Saturday and Sunday, he marvels at how his creation has expanded.
Dotson moved from New York and wasn't pleased with summer basketball events in the Metroplex. In 1987, he decided to hold his own tournament -- a four-team event with his FedEx co-workers. Eight teams participated the following year, and it hasn't stopped growing.
It grew so much that Dotson expanded the tournament from FedEx employees to a Pro-Am Classic in 2000, allowing others in the area and NBA players to be involved and using the proceeds to help build Black Like Me, his non-profit organization that helps underprivileged minorities attend college.
"It just took a life of its own to be honest with you," Dotson said. "It grew and became very, very popular."
As of Friday afternoon, a record 37 teams were confirmed, Dotson said. Players will take their shot at the $5,000 grand prize, $1,000 player cash giveaway or $500 MVP award.
"It has to be structured, and it has to be well organized for them to be able to come out, participate and be worth their while," Dotson said. "It's a no-nonsense tournament."
When teams sign up, they don't submit rosters until Saturday, so Dotson doesn't know everybody who will be involved this year. He was able to confirm that the Memphis Grizzlies' Darrell Arthur (South Oak Cliff High School) will be playing.
Dotson said some of the names floating around include several NBA players with local ties: Jason Terry of the world champion Mavericks, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge (Seagoville HS), former Maverick Josh Howard and Golden State's Acie Law (Dallas Kimball HS).
"That's the whole excitement and the whole mystery to the tournament: You never know who guys are talking to, especially now with the Internet and Facebook," Dotson said. "Getting out information is so easy now so you never know who's going to come, and when they come you're surprised."
One player who is confirmed is former Lewisvile High School star Booker Woodfox, who just wrapped up his first year in the NBA D-League with the Texas Legends.
Woodfox, winner of the first D-League Showcase 3-point contest, is feeling the effect of the NBA lockout, especially with the cancellation of the Las Vegas Summer League.
"It actually hurt quite a bit," he said. "I was trying to get on a team this year and play in the Summer League. You can't stress [about] it that much. You still have to do what you have to do if you want to make a team overseas or in the D-League."
Competitive tournaments like the Dallas Fed X Pro/Am help fill the gap for developing players like Woodfox who want to get better and stay in shape.
"There's going to be a lot of D-League guys [participating]," said Woodfox, who will play in the event for the first time. "I'm going to have three on my team."
Larry Jackson, Dotson's longtime friend, has played in the tournament for 10 years, and he welcomes the challenge of facing younger players like Woodfox.
"What's good about this tournament is a lot of teams are so evenly matched up," Jackson said. "There's a lot of parity. Many games will go down to the wire or will be in an overtime situation, so every play is critical. You can see the competitive juices out of each team."
Dotson wants to continue the tournament's expansion by setting up a nationwide summer circuit in other major cities, eventually leading to a championship in late August. Dotson would continue using the proceeds to help Black Like Me.
"Right now the idea is getting sponsors," Dotson said. "Just getting people to see the vision, to get it out there for people to see and to get other NBA players involved, even if they didn't play a lot and just participated to help the event be successful."
Master Tesfatsion is a reporter for ESPNDallas.com.