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A true BOP legend
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti / December 18, 2004

Daryl Carpenter with his kids Kayla and Tequan
Daryl Carpenter with his children.

Soul Man is the world's leading prison basketball journalist. He also writes for Don Diva, Elemental, Vice and Slam.
If you want the 411 on convicts, street legends, prison gangs, the mafia and life in the belly of the beast, check out gorillaconvict.com/blog
Check out Soul Man's first book Prison Stories and watch out for Prison Basketball, out in March 2007.
You can e-mail him at info@gorillaconvict.com.

In the netherworld of corruption and violence there is nothing nice. And being a prison basketball legend isn't easy. You have to prove yourself time and time again to all the haters, doubters and crackheads. Yeah, they heard you're supposed to be like that, the Michael Jordan of the system. But at every new spot, they want you to show them you're the real deal. The truth. The answer.

For most legends, it’s all about them. They want to see their names shining bright in lights. They want to reach for the stars from the heart
of the penitentiary. They want to blow up and be recognized for their skills. If you can't be an NBA star, then you can be a blacktop star. If you can't be a hood star, then you can be a prison star. It's all relative.

But every now and then, a man comes along who's different. He's not a star in his own mind. He's the real deal. He's the type of dude whose name has been ringing bells in the Bureau of Prisons for 14 years. His fellow convicts have given him tags such as Silk, Smooth, Pro, Batman and MJ.

And when I contacted this prison basketball legend for an interview, he had only one condition: "It's gotta be for the kids."

With that one statement, Daryl Carpenter, arguably the best to ever
ball in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), showed the depths of his personality. Let me introduce you to the man they call Silk.

Daryl Carpenter stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 215 pounds. Unlike a lot of the BOP's finest players, Daryl actually has the combination of size, speed, ability and athleticism that the NBA craves. At 34 years of age, his prime basketball playing years are behind him, but the legend he has created in the BOP over the last 14 years has taken on mythical proportions.

There was the time at USP Allenwood when he sat out the summer league and didn't play. But there was one team that couldn't win a game all season. And there was Daryl sitting in the crowd getting ready to watch them play their last game of the year. A sure loss everybody thought, but on a whim the team asked Daryl the legend to play with them and for some reason he agreed. Needless to say, they won the game 69-63. Daryl scored all but 8 points of the 69.

There was the time at FCI Cumberland where his opponents made a special zone just to stop him. They had two small quick guards harassing him out front and three lanky shot blockers all 6-foot-5 or taller ready to swat his shot into the stands. But they couldn't stop Daryl. On one supreme effort of athleticism, Daryl split the zone and flew towards the hoop with the ball in a finger roll position. The 6-foot-7 center flew at him to block the shot but Daryl cradled the ball switched it to his left hand, turned his body avoiding the 6-foot-5 forward leaping at him too and gently laid the ball in off the glass. And one. The man’s moves bring up images of MJ and Dr. J.

In USP Terre Haute, when he first came in the system, prisoners still tell of the time when Daryl pulled up in his opponents face for a jumper and elevated into the air. His opponent jumped with him to try to block the shot and before Daryl descended back to earth the man guarding him had already descended and jumped again before Daryl even fired the shot. And you know the shot was straight water. All net. The man has serious hangtime. His vertical must be off the meter.

Daryl's career is full of moments like these. 14 years of SportsCenter moments and smooth, silky moves not captured on video tape but etched on the minds of the prison population. No bright lights, no cameras, TV time or Greatest Slam Dunk videos. No magazine articles or media circuses or million dollar contracts and endorsement deals. Just one man and a basketball doing what he does. Doing what he loves. The thoughts of what could have been but never was are staggering.

"In 1991 at the age of 20 I was indicted, went to trial and lost," says Daryl. "It was the biggest ‘L’ of my life. I was sentenced to 32 years for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, cocaine base and heroin."

In his 14 years of incarceration Daryl has entertained prisoners with his phenomenal NBA-like talents at USP Terre Haute, USP and FCI Allenwood, FCI Cumberland, FCI Ashland and FCI Petersburg.

This Richmond, Virginia native admits to having had several college scholarships on the table when he played for the Squires AAU team in the late 80's. The Squires are still going strong today.

"A good friend of mine, Tony Squire, is the head of Squires AAU basketball here in Virginia. Tony runs one of the top AAU programs in the country," Daryl says.

"Tony brings some of his at-risk youth to visit me. A lot of the kids' parents know me or know of me. And they trust my perspective to be credible and real. Having the trust of the kids and all those who know me means everything to me."

That shows the magnitude of the man. A basketball legend reaching back out to his community to help kids so they won't end up like him. In the feds doing football numbers. Daryl's efforts to his community haven't stopped there.

"Myself along with Johnny Green re-introduced summer league basketball back to the city of Richmond."

Quite a feat from prison. But when misadventures in the game (of street life) collide with the love of the game of basketball mistakes can be made and Daryl realizes this and only seeks atonement.

"One bad decision altered the direction and course of my life. I loved basketball but once my focus turned toward the streets nothing else really mattered."

Another case of street dreams eclipsing hoop dreams. But what hoop dreams could they have been?

"I could've of played college," Daryl says. "But realistically it would've taken the proper dedication and training for the pros."

But for what I hear, this dude could have torn the league up. On compounds all over the east coast, when Daryl plays everybody shows up.

"We're going to see Michael Jordan play," they say and they mean it too. The long arms, the lean frame, the turnaround jumper, the crazy hops, the smooth moves – it's all there. In the BOP, they talk of him in reverent tones.

"I've won 15 championships and lost six. If an institution had a varsity team, I was it. As for all-star games, every game I play in is an all-star game. Teams from the world never beat our varsity teams. In prison I've had the pleasure of playing with and against some of the BOP's best – Carlos, MeGo, Boo Bear, Air Black and Derrick Curry.

"Prison ball is more mentally and physically challenging then in the streets. In here you need more than talent. You need big heart. I've seen guys with crazy talent but not the heart to match."

That’s how it goes in the go-hard world of prison basketball. You either got that mad braveheart or you get exposed. And dudes will take it to the next level too. It is prison after all.

"Different tactics are used. But since I've been down I haven't had any altercations behind basketball," he says. "Most guys accepted their fate and respected better game."

"Really I do it all," Daryl says. "My natural position is shooting guard but my handles and passing skills allow me to play the point. My shot is wicked and I can score from anywhere."

Dude ain't lying. At every new spot, he gets a new nickname for his abilities. Silk, Smooth and Batman just to name a few. When the game is on the line, just give Daryl the ball.

"Not only do I want it in my hands, my teammates want it in my hands," he says. "I'm clutch as clutch can get. I would love to make the shot to win the game but the ultimate thrill is the win."

"From day one, basketball was a comfort zone. It allowed me to express myself. So all my anger and bitterness was tunneled toward my opposition, who undoubtedly got victimized. Which was unfortunate for whom ever," he says. "But for guys serving lengthy sentences or life it was a show to watch. One they may never be blessed with the opportunity to go and see in the world. So my love for the game runs much deeper than most."

When we talk about the NBA, Daryl lights up.

"I enjoy watching dudes who can play," he says. "The NBA is loaded. You talking about the best players in the world. As a youngster, it was all about Dr J and Mike. Today I enjoy watching AI, Kobe, T-Mac, KG, Duncan, Artest and Ben Wallace."

About his current spot the legend says, "in all honesty rec isn't what it used to be. The pool of talent is very thin. I play but not as much as I used to. Over the years I've missed a lot of summer leagues because of my knees. It’s not like we receive top medical treatment. So as individuals, we must be conscious of our situation."

And that’s the story of the closest thing to Michael Jordan in the BOP.

Dude is the truth. And for real, he's all about the kids. I can envision dude when he finally gets out working with the youngsters from his hometown on a basketball level but also on a more personal level looking out for them and teaching them right from wrong. They always say experience is the best teacher and Daryl has experience galore in street life, prison life and basketball. So hopefully a lot of Richmond area youth will benefit from the life and trials of Daryl Carpenter and not end up in the penitentiary like him. Because when a man has talent like Daryl has, it's sad when he doesn't have the opportunity to show the world.

Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti, federal prison number 18205-083, is housed at FCI Loretto. Previously he resided at FCI Fairton, FCI Fort Dix, FCI Beckley and FCI Manchester. He has been a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com since 2003

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