From jump shots to jobs

Annual summer league lets would-be pros show off for scouts from around the world

After a standout high school career at St. Mary’s in Berkeley and a commendable college tenure at the University of Montana, Victor Venters was at a basketball crossroads.

At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, he has the classic build of a “tweener”— not quite big enough to play against the rugged big men of the NBA, and not quite quick enough to guard the swift perimeter players of the league, either.

Where he could play, however, was at the prestigious San Francisco Bay Area ProCity Summer Basketball League, a hoops festival that draws the Bay Area’s finest talent, from both the professional and amateur ranks. Past attendees include Bay Area legends Jason Kidd and Gary Payton, with current NBA players Jason Richardson and Drew Gooden on rosters this summer.

It was playing in ProCity that helped Venters land a job playing hoops professionally —in Europe.

“There definitely is a lot of exposure playing in this league,” said Venters, who currently plays in Italy. Hescored 15 points Thursday and helped propel his Bay Raiders squad to a 73-71 victory over South Bay.

“You look over and you see you’re playing against a guy who is making 20 or 30 million a year, it really helps to motivate you. The games are always so physical and everyone plays so aggressive, that you really have to come out and play hard every game. Each game is a great chance to showcase your skills.”

League director Jon Greenberg estimates that five players each year end up signing contracts to play internationally as a result of the attention they receive in the league.

“Professional scouts come out for their West Coast trips, and they might stop by Las Vegas or Los Angeles,” Greenberg said. “But they make it a point to stop by and see the action here, because we have such a history of good basketball.”

A.J. Rollins, like Venters, is another former Bay Area high school star who helped parlay his success at the Pro City league into a professional contract in Europe.

Rollins, who played as a collegian at St. Mary’s from 1992-97, has played pro hoops all over the globe, with stops that include Australia, Argentina, Japan, and Germany.

“I was playing here one year and there was a scout for a pro team from Germany who was interested, so we talked and I ended up playing for his team,” said Rollins, who currently suits up for the East Bay squad in his 14th year in the league. “There is no doubt that playing at ProCity helped me out. It helped facilitate things for me and opened up a lot of people’s eyes.”

Anthony “Bones” Davis, a 72-year-old basketball legend who helps Greenberg run ProCity, had a particularly impressive story about the benefits of the league.

“One player was being watched by a scout from Beijing, China,” said Davis, who played at the University of Hawaii. “This guy had an amazing first quarter, so the scout signed him right there and tookhim away, right out the door, to play in China.”

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