The Monkee Show
North Carolina has a fine basketball tradition. There's the interstate rivalry between two perennial winners like the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, there's the many NCAA championships and #1 rankings between the two, there's the legendary coaches like Dean Smith and Coach K, and then there's the outstanding roster of players that displayed that bling-bling talent in the ACC before going onto super stardom in the NBA – James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Christian Laettner, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Grant Hill, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Elton Brand, and, of course, Michael Jordan.
Whether bleeding Carolina blue or getting cozy at Duke with the Cameron crazies, North Carolina is a basketball hotbed that has produced some of the best players in the world. Carolina and Duke alumni have graced magazine covers worldwide, dominated Sportcenter highlights, won Olympic gold medals, and held the nations imagination with magical moments during March Madness.
North Carolina players represent everywhere though – on the playground, in high school, AALJ, Pro Am, in the hood, and even in federal prison.
I'd like to introduce the world to one of Carolina's finest: Antonio Rogers, federal prison number 11186-058, aka Monkee.
Monkee touched down at USP Atlanta in 1994, 20 years old – and with a fresh rack of time. The US Attorney's office in Charlotte, Monkee's hometown, labeled him a cop killer and danger to society even though he never killed anyone. He was convicted and sentenced to 210 months for conspiracy to traffic cocaine base. There began his journey into the netherworld of the feds and the harsh realities of prison basketball.
"There’s no doubt that prison ball is different from organized," Monkee says. "And as a rookie to the system I had to get mine." And he did get his. With the aggressiveness of AI, the trashtalking of the Glove, and the don't-give-a-damn attitude of Rasheed, Monkee became a prison ball legend collecting A-league chips and scoring championships at a number of institutions like the aforementioned USP Atlanta, FCI Beckley, USP Edgefield, USP Lee, and finally FCI Gilmer, where he currently resides.
Monkee ain't no big dude. At 5-foot-7 and 164 pounds, he's usually the smallest guy on the floor. But he plays prison ball the way it should be played. "I take the whistle serious, sometimes too serious," Monkee says. "This is my career, this is what I have to talk about. So I go hard to stay on top and try to pump that through my teammates by leading in example.
"I know that any team I play with, we have a chance." Don't hold Monkee's stature against him either because he'll make you pay. "I do have a short-man complex," he says. "I love it when they get physical and I don't stop when they put the wood on me. I just be in the game with high intensity and blood flowing. I hate to lose."
The man's never had a losing season in the feds. He's been one of the leading scorers in every jail he's been at with a season high average of 29.7 ppg at FCI Edgefield in 2000. That was also the site of his most memorable game, where he dropped 45 points with 9 treys. "I don't know what had gotten into me but I couldn't miss." Monkee says.
His whole bid has been pure shine – he's won championships, made All-Star squads, played Varsity, won scoring championships, and done interviews and received much love from prison-circulated sports papers. The Rasheed attitude, the Glove trashtalk, and the Iverson aggressiveness has taken him to another level. And his game... I don't know if words can do it justice.
Like his namesake, the kid crouches all low on the court, hands almost touching the floor like a monkey. And he kind of hops down the floor. Dribbling down the court dodging in and out of the trees like he's on an obstacle course. Scoring, creating, dishing dimes. And you know his defense is on one million. Talking trash constantly. Smallest dude on the court screaming in the biggest dude's face, "you can't check me." Rainbow three, all net, Get it out your mouth, son. Throwing his body into the taller, stronger players. Using finesse, quickness, and deception. A playground point guard who has aspects of Steve Nash in his game. He can shoot, crossover, throw the no-look pass and put on a show. It's all there.
A typical Monkee line reads 27 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 11/12 from the free throw line. He's constantly dribbling, through the legs, behind the back, passing from all angles, left hand or right, twisting, turning, a burst of speed to get to the rack. Passing it to the big man, cutting to the corner for a three-butter.
"I've played for 10 years, two seasons a year," Monkee says. "I've never been that fancy type player, but it's in my game. I can't dunk so I do other things to perform for the crowd." Like skating on cats. They call Monkee "Feelings Hurter" because dudes be getting in their feelings when they play him.
"I make them dizzy with moves," Monkee says. He has a love/hate relationship with the crowd also. "I have a big fan club and an even bigger hater base that I am always trying to make believers out of."
Monkee talks mad shit to the crowd and players alike. "The fans get emotional and there’s times that some go to the next level or some just talk." But Monkee's a soldier and that shit don't faze him.
Monkee confesses to being "a loner at times." He's also outspoken, an attention grabber, and a comedian. He's also started to realize that basketball isn't all he has in my life. When he gets out in 2009, he wants to pass his skills to the kids. I could definitely see the cat coaching kids and the like. Breaking the cycle and passing on his wisdom of street life, the penitentiary, and basketball. Monkee has a lot to offer and can probably help some kids back in Charlotte realize their dreams. But Monkee had dreams too. "My height was a conflict," he says. "But my heart has me listed at 6-foot-9."
Monkee still dreams, saying he always wanted some college in his life. But he realizes that dreams can get in the way of dreams. "It happened to me," he says. "Street dreams, destroyed my dreams. I always wanted to hear Dicky V scream my name – he's a diaper dandy." Monkee was close to that as he played high school, AAU, and Pro Am ball with future college and NBA players like Jeff McInnis or Todd Fuller.
He says he doesn't watch much basketball on TV anymore, but he loves to play and watch prison ball. A prison ball legend himself, he is gracious when he mentions other prison ballers he admires. Like Orlando Mike, Gretchen from ATL, Rashawn Little from Alabama, and his homeboy Larry "LC" Chilshom. He also gives props to two players here at FCI Gilmer – DJ from B-more and Laron Queen from DC. "They got game," Monkee says.
Like any star player when the game is on the line, Monkee wants the ball. "I've made plenty of big shots, but I know when to dish it, or hold it. I just wanna be the creator."
Monkee wants to represent too. He reps himself, Carolina, and his hood. Ain't no ands, ifs, or buts about it. Ain't no faking it. Monkee got big heart and even bigger respect for his game. He ain't jacking no rec and the haters can step off. "This is my court," Monkee says.
Whether it's pulling off the Iverson "98" commercial move or imitating the Janet Jackson SuperBowl halftime wardrobe malfunction with a teammate pulling a star off of Monkee's exposed chest during the game, the kid is wild and a crazy entertainer. He juxtaposes winning for his team, fun for himself, and performing for the crowd all into one package. Call it bedlam, call it chaos, call it the Monkee Show. And even though he won't be balling for the Tar Heels like MJ did, Monkee still bleeds Carolina blue.
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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