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The Professor
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti / July 20, 2006

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.

Have you heard of the kid from Salem-Keizer, Oregon? You know, the 21-year-old, 5-foot-10 point guard. The white boy with the nasty handle. The one that is wowing crowds from coast to coast with his wacky moves. Holding his own with the inner-city ballers. Outstyling them with his flash and flair. You know the kid Grayson Boucher? What? You never heard of him? Well, what about The Professor? Oh yeah, now you know who I'm talking about now.

That’s how it goes for him. For the little white kid from Oregon who battled it out and won an endorsement contract from the And1 Tour in the summer of 2003 at the Portland Open Run. He's now in his third year as a member of the tour and he's loving it.

"Its a great experience touring," Grayson says. "Going from city to city. You. get to meet a lot of people. You get to bring your competition to different states. Places you never played before."

And he adds with a smile, "You get to go to a lot of exciting parties."

Just imagine the white boy getting down with AO, Escalade, Main Event, Hot Sauce and the honies and all of them on the dance floor at some upscale club with all the big ballers in attendance. But its not all partying. There’s some basketball to be played, too.

"Everything is real hyped, each game," The Professor says. "You're always having fun. You're always on the move, always working. You're going out, you're hanging with the guys on the bus. You just encounter a lot of great experiences in a short amount of time. It's probably one of the greatest experiences of my life."

Playing ball has always been Grayson's dream from the jump.

"I've been playing ball since I ever remember," he says. "Actually even before first grade. But I played organized basketball from first grade all the way through college. My parents bought me a Larry Bird hoop when I was 2 or 3, and I used to play on that."

And from there Grayson went on to find his true love streetball. A world where he both sticks out for who he is and because of the moves and things he does with the ball. Moves that haven't been seen since Skip to My Lou.

"It was in high school," Grayson explains where his infatuation with streetball started. "Like where I'm from streetball is not as big as it is on the East coast, because of the weather. In the Northwest, it rains a lot, but I started playing this way in high school. We have one court, Marion Park in Oregon, where everybody went to in the summer, and once I saw the mixtapes and stuff like that I just really got into it from then on."

Although Grayson made his name on the And1 Tour with his flash, there’s still some substance to his game. He played at McNary High School from 1998 to 2001, and in 2002 he graduated from Salem Academy and was named 1st Team All-Conference and All-State.

From there, he went to Chemeketa Junior College, but his pro career didn't pan out at that time. Instead his fortunes led him to the Portland Open Run in the summer of 2003. And instead of bagging groceries and mowing lawns, he was making his name on the tour. Schooling people and putting moves down. All the hype finally led to Grayson playing professionally in the IBL for his hometown Salem Stampede where he averaged 12.5 ppg as the starting point guard. And now what about those NBA dreams? Can he make the jump like Skip?

"If it happens, it would be cool," he says. "Because I work hard in my regular games. But if it doesn't happen, then I wouldn't be mad. It’s not the ultimate goal."

For real, the kid is already living out his dreams now on the And1 Tour.

"I like playing streetball. You can make a solid living off that, just as well as somebody good playing overseas, so I'm happy with it."

And the overseas part plays into And1's world also.

"The overseas tours we do every fall are big and exciting," Grayson says. "We did a European tour twice. We did an Asian Pacific tour twice which included Australia, Philippines, New Zealand and Japan. We went to Brazil. So those are all places that nobody my age who I associate with has ever been to."

Grayson is doing it big at age 21, but still he has heroes.

"My main influence to play basketball was my dad," he says. "He's still like a big role model to me. Obviously, Michael Jordan is a hero, and I liked Michael Jackson when I was little, music-wise, but my current favorite player in the NBA is Allen Iverson."

With the talent surrounding him on the tour, Grayson says it's tough to say who the top guy is.

"It's really hard to say who the best player is." He says. "Everybody is special in their own way. Everybody has their own style. Everybody stands out in their own way. If I were to say one, it would have to be AO."

But in reality, it's The Professor who brings out the crowds and gets the biggest reaction from his variety of moves and wicked handle, which provides ankle-busting and jaw-dropping antics minute by minute. He brings to mind another wicked ballhandler. The And1 legend. The man who started it all Skip to My Lou.

"I played against Skip," Grayson says of the streetball legend. "He doesn't really do our tour too much anymore. He might this summer in a couple of the cities. I played against him three or four times, and 2003 was the last time he played on the tour."

Grayson admits that playing against Skip was like meeting his influence, because it was Skip who got Grayson and a whole bunch of others into streetballing with his game and handle.

"It was a new experience," he says. "Because actually when I started getting into And1, volume 1 (the one that stars Skip and launched the whole industry) was one of the first tapes I saw that really got me into the whole And1 thing to begin with."

And now its come full circle.

With Skip in the league, and The Professor wowing audiences in his place, Grayson has come along way from Oregon, but he is where he belongs. And with the corporate sponsors like Mountain Dew behind them and The Professor as the public face of the franchise, who knows what the future holds for Grayson? With his likeness on everything from video games to t-shirts and a multitude of followers and advocates practicing to be the next him, the world is his. Could we see him following Skip's footsteps into the league? Not likely, but anything is possible.

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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