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Draft night in prison
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti / July 3, 2004

Seth M. Ferranti

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.

Bars on the windows, double hurricane razor-wire fences and all that. Jockeying for position and arguing over seating arrangements. Trying to get the best angle possible so they could get the 411 and see who their mob grabs. In FCI Gilmer, cats live and die with the NBA. Regular season, finals, draft, free agency. It's all good.

As the draft was about to start, a big prisoner called Tank walks into
the TV room late, kicking chairs and making his way to the front, creating his own little space right in front of the TV.

As someone starts to protest, Tank shuts them up with a glare. "You trying to see me?" he says flexing his 22-inch biceps. When nobody says nada, Tank turns around to the TV and mutters, "I'm tired of these chumps. Now let's get some help for AI, baby."

Because you know Big Tank is from Philly and he rides with the Sixers.

It's kinda quiet in the pre-show as dudes are wondering who will go #1 and who their team will get. Murder from Motown, still with the championship glow, breaks the silence.

"Who you all think's going first?" he says.

"Whoever's name they call, nigga. Now shut the fuck up,” Tanks says.

A couple of prisoners laugh out loud to Murder's detriment. He just got clowned and he can't do anythin about it because Tank's one big fella. King of the TV room.

David Stern comes out to start the draft and says how 200 countries around the globe are watching the event. But he doesn't say anything about the two million people sitting in America's prisons. I guess being in here, we don't count. But at least we get some shine on HoopsHype.

Dick Vitale is prattling on in the background, decrying the state of college basketball and all the high school-to-pro defections – putting in his two cents and the like as the first selection is made.

Dwight Howard, the Choir Boy from ATL, is selected first by Orlando. The third high schooler selected with the first pick in the last four years. Will he be Kevin Garnett or will he be Kwame Brown? Only the future will tell, but in the TV room dudes are more concerned with being heard right now.

"Yo, man, he'll be jive-balling with T-Mac, yo," says a boricua called Sport.

"No way, Stevie Franchise gonna be down there," says Murder.

"Steve Francis is a crybaby," Wild Bill puts in. "They should of took Okafor. Francis wants to win right now."

"Steve Francis ain't winning shit anywhere. That nigga would cry if he had Shaq," Big Tank concludes.

But the Choir Boy is in Orlando for real. "He could be nice," says Main-man Tone. "He got handle, size, and he can shoot."

He'll definitely get some burn with the Magic because they are in rebuilding mode now. Jay Z's "99 Problems" is playing on the adjacent TV, which stays locked on BET, and I have a feeling that Jay Z's song is a foreshadowing of the lives these young players who get drafted are coming into. From the hood to millionaire status, it can't be easy. But on the real, it must be nice.

The expansion Charlotte Bobcats take Emeka Okafor next and T-Y says, "Man, Orlando should have taken him. He's gonna be vicious."

Dicky V agrees, saying how Orlando fucked up and should have taken the defensive-minded Okafor, comparing him to a young Alonzo Mourning.

The No. 3 pick is Chi-town’s and the Bulls pick is a surprise as Okafor's teammate, fellow Husky and national champion Ben Gordon is selected to play in the Windy City and try to live up to the Jordan legacy.

"Fuck," yells Tank. "That was the Sixers' pick. Imagine him and AI running the break."

But it will never be.

"Damn, the Bulls jumped on that dude quick." Murder says. "And check out that big ass Bulls hat, he looks like Elmer Fudd," Murder continues, clowning Ben Gordon as he sits down for an interview.

The Clippers are up next and they pick Shaun Livingston, the 6-foot-7 beanpole high school point guard. "The paperclips got Magic II," says Main-man Tone.

At #5 the Wizards take Devin Harris, who has been compared to Steve Nash, and trade him to Dallas, getting Antawn Jamison in return. At #6, the Hawks pick Josh Childress, Mr. Silky Smooth himself, from Stanford.

"He gonna be partying down in ATL," says Murder.

"Yeah, and he got the fro working too. Check out ma-dukes talking about his fro," Wild Bill puts in.

"What up with the white boy from Oregon?" says King, coming in late to the action. "He can shoot."

"Ain't nobody pick the cracker yet. You act like that muthafucka's Larry Bird or something," Tank growls.

The white boy, Luke Jackson, goes to Cleveland, where he'll be getting lots of open jumpers, courtesy of LeBron James. And I wonder if he'll feel disrespected if a white guy guards him.

But before that pick, Phoenix takes Luol Deng of the Dinka tribe by way of Duke and Toronto throws a curve ball selecting the big BYU center Rafael Araujo.

When its time for Philly’s pick Tank boldly predicts, "We taking Jameer Nelson." But it’s not to be as Andre Iguodala is selected by the Sixers. "Who the fuck is that?" Tank demands.

"Who the fuck is that? Some Nigerian nigga?"

"Naw, dog," Murder says, ever the hoopologist. "He from Arizona. He a beast."

Tank looks relieved then recognizing Murder's NBA knowledge. "Oh, yeah," he says. "He like that. Good cuz AI needs some help. The man can't do it all himself."

Murder rolls with it trying to get back in with Big Tank.

"Yeah, Tank, it's gonna be the Answer and the Freak. That's what they call the Arizona cat. The Freak, you know."

Tank looks back and frowns, "Shut up nigga, you don't like Philly. Stop fronting, you a hater." A couple of dudes laugh again at Murder's expense.

The draft rolls on with more high schoolers, eight in total, a new record, going in the first round. And several others internationals are selected. Andris Biedrins, the Latvian banger being the first international, going to Golden State. "The NBA draft goes fast as shit," Wild Bill observes. And everyone keeps commenting on how Jameer Nelson is gonna go next.

The ESPN camera keeps cutting to him looking sad as he slides toward the bottom of the first round.

"That nigga is crushed," says Main-man Tone. "Look at his face."

When Portland picks Bassy 13th to the surprise of the analysts and the TV room, it is a New York moment but the only one of the evening since the Knicks don't got a first-round draft pick.

When Tom Tolbert informs us that Kris Humphries, who was selected by the Jazz, benched 185 lbs. 22 times, Tank turns around and says, "185, shit, I can curl that shit 22 times."

And no one in the TV room disputes that.

"I don't understand why Portland didn't take Jameer Nelson," says Murder. As the high schoolers continue to fly off the board they relegate the college players like Jameer to second-class citizens kinda like how Don Diva makes FEDS look like some shit. But finally at #20, Denver picks Jameer.

"Why the fuck they pick him?" Murder says. "They got Andre Miller and little Earl already."

And the answer to that comes minutes later, as David Stern reports that Orlando has acquired the rights to Nelson, the national collegiate player of the year, from Denver in a trade.

"Look out," Murder says, "The Choir Boy and Jameer. They gonna be tearing it up."

"Shut up fool," Tank says. "You don't like no Orlando. Stop whaling."

Murder grits his mouth like he's jive-mad at the third putdown from Tank but again he doesn't do nothing. It's almost count time anyhow.

Main-man Tone says, "Man I like that boy Dorell Wright that Miami took. He's gonna be a beast. Just watch. With Odom and Wade. They gonna be vicious."

The selection of Pavel Podkolzin brings some jeers too.

"How tall that muthafucka?" says Wild Bill. "He looks like Georghe Muresan too. Big-ass caveman-looking cracker."

As the C/0 calls lockdown, I'm left wondering which of the high schoolers will turn into a superstar because they're so many at least one or two of them gotta be. But I know the draft is a gamble. A gamble on potential and a team could end up with Kobe or T-Mac. But then again, they could end up with Kwame Brown. You never know, but for real I like Shaun Livingston because you know the Paper Clips are my mob.

I decided to stay in my cell after count because I noticed Murder talking to his homeboys and they were all looking in Big Tank's direction. That might mean drama and if the shit jumps off in the TV room, I ain't trying to be around. Just another day in prison, I think. NBA draft and all.

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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