Pedigree doesn't count for much in the world of prison ball. Yeah, dudes might be intrigued a little. But on the pound, dudes only care about what you can do for them right now. And for real, your past means nothing. They don’t care that you played on the famed Dunbar high school team with Sam Cassell. They don't care that you played at Five Star basketball camps, had Division I colleges recruiting you, or that you had a real chance to make the league, or any of that. In prison none of that matters.
A prison ball player is only as good as his last game. And if his game falters, then the hater will come out. When cats on the pound are betting mad cake on you, you better produce because high school prodigy or not, a hard foul will leave you on the floor either to get up and face the pressure or fold up like so many players before you. But let’s keep it real: if you're the best on the pound then you're the best on the pound. And dudes will be jumping on your tip.
Yeah, the haters will be there too waiting for you to fail, but if your skill and heart are like that, then its all good. And sometimes all the above does really come into play in the belly of the beast. And when it does, we will recognize. Meet high school superstar, streetball legend and prison baller extraordinaire Charlie "Beserk" Hurt.
“I’ve been playing basketball all of my life," says the 5-foot-10, 36-year-old straight out of Baltimore. "I remember as a kid I had damn near more trophies and awards in my living room than we did furniture. Buzzer-beaters, game winners and daggers is what I’m about. The number of championships, MVPs and All-Star games are crazy.”
The kid ain't fronting. His history runs deep. From the streets to the penitentiary.
There was the championship game at the Baltimore Arena between Dunbar and Lake Clifton way back in the late 80s. The game was tight all the way through to the fourth quarter. In fact, the game was tied with four minutes left. Dunbar, behind Charlie Hurt, went on a 13-0 run to close out the game. Charlie had 8 of the last 13 points and walked away with the MVP. No small feat when the team boasted numerous future Division I and NBA players. But Charlie took the glory, and there’s been plenty of prison glory too.
“When I was in Cumberland, I lit it up for 63 points," Charlie says. “I’ve scored more than that, but I did this in a regulation game, that’s crazy. No overtime, I just straight bust them jokers' tail. You know what happened after that? They dropped notes on me and got me locked up so that I wouldn't on the pound for the playoffs. I stayed in the hole for 22 days. I got out Friday, dropped 35 and helped my team advance to the championship. We lost Game 1 by one point and I had 40. Our next game wasn’t until Monday and them chumps dropped a note on me and I got locked up again. All they had to do was bet on me and not against me."
That’s just how it goes in the dog-eat-dog world of prison ball. If they can't beat you on the floor, they'll cook up some nefarious scheme to put you out of commission for the duration. But Charlie doesn't sweat it. He's official. Prison ball is nice, but he grew up in the mean streets of East B-More. You may have watched The Wire, but this dude lived it. He was a basketball prodigy who fell to the temptations of the streets.
“I’m sure you've heard of the Dome in East B-More. Well, that’s where I grew up, " Charlie says. "The name of the Rec Center is Madison Square. I played AAU, BNBL, Project Survival and different leagues throughout the city like Cloverdale, Roosevelt, Lynhurst, Bocek, Chick Webb and #250. I played against the best high school in the world, Dunbar High. Me and Sam Cassell played on the same team. He left a year before me, but I played with guys like Skipwise, Muggsy, Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Reggie Lewis, Keith Booth, Donta Bright, Boobie and Keith James, Kurk Lee, Mike Lloyd, Ernie Graham. I mean, I could go on and on. I played in tournaments sponsored by Nike and McDonalds against Bobby Hurley, Randolph Childress, Chris Mills, Malik Sealy, Kenny Anderson and George Lynch."
But for the last 11 years, Charlie’s been playing in the feds.
“This is my second bit," he says. "I did 3 1/2 on 10 in the state for possession with intent to distribute. I'm currently serving 180 months in the feds. I've been to Cumberland, Loretto, Fairton, Fort Dix and now Fort Devens. It’s crazy because it feels like I've been playing everyday for the last 11 years. I've never missed a season, but I have slowed down a lot from free-reccing full court. But I’m a competitor and I want to win when I step on the court. It's a lot for dudes who play real hard and then there are the ones who get softer and softer as the rec gets thicker and thicker."
But Charlie isn't one of those. He's from Charm city.
“You have some dudes who forget that they are doing time and that the next man is capable of being just as dangerous as you are. The games definitely be having jokers in their feelings. To some, the games are everything. But I’ve been in for a while, so I know how to deal with the hotheads. I'm well respected throughout the system as well as on the street, so pretty much when I speak, my words are often considered."
Charlie relates and his nickname is Beserk, so tread carefully. But with all the hype at a young age, what went wrong?
“Pitt, UMass and Old Dominion were recruiting heavy, but somehow I started hanging with the wrong crowd and word got out that I wasn’t going to do right, so they backed off," Charlie says. "I had to settle for Howard Community College, which was unheard of for a member of any of Dunbar’s basketball teams. I went out and played about eight or nine games before I caught my first bit."
A lot of wasted talent, but what about the dream?
“Basketball was my life and I had dreams of going to the NBA," Charlie says. “There is no doubt about me being able to play Division I, overseas or in NBA in my prime."
But things didn't work out that way and Charlie has spent a decade in prison doing his thing.
“Most guys in prison don't know or know how to play basketball," Charlie says. “Don’t get it twisted, it's a lot of talent in the joint as well as athleticism, but they can't think basketball. Most of my games in, I pretty much do what I want. Organized ball on the street is better because I always played against the best. I played for a lot of coaches who were strict and very big on discipline. It was about fundamentals, having heart and having knowledge of the game. I know that I can play. When I get into my groove, I pick my spots where I give the crowd something to get excited about. I know how to hesitate and freeze my man just enough to get him out of position. Once he commits, I can do whatever I want. Believe it or not, it’s still some people who don't believe the hype. But trust me, they respect it."
Anyway, haters and doubters still come out.
“I think to some, I don't look like I can play," Charlie says. "So I have this deceptive look about me. I'm not a solid 190. In fact, I've always been a little pudgy. I can play the one or the two, but I think I'm a two-guard trapped in a point guard’s body. I have NBA three-point range, so my tray ball opens up everything else, My handle is crazy, I can go left or right and finish with either hand. One game I jammed my right index finger and played the rest of the game left handed. The whole crowd was saying, 'I thought he was right handed.'"
And as Charlie’s time is winding down, so is his career as a prison baller. The man who people say is cut from the same cloth as Sam Cassell has more important things in mind now.
“Since 1997, I've been serving the lord," Charlie says. "I gave my life to God and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior. So that’s one of the reasons why I'm mindful of how I conduct myself on the court as well as off the court. I try to be humble and meek as possible. But don't get it twisted, I'm not perfect. And I love to coach as well as play. I think that I am a student of the game and I'll be coaching in the street as well. My goal is to build a Christian Youth center, that way I can teach youngsters both girls and boys not only how to play ball, but how to live as children of God.”
An admirable goal for an ex-con and B-More basketball legend. I wish Charlie success in all his endeavors.
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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