New Yorks basketball tournament game has a kingpin. His name is Rick Rivers, CEO of Funsports Inc. The man who runs tournaments like a hungry record company exec building his artist stable grew up on the mean streets of the BK, getting schooled by Coach Gil Reynolds.
Reynolds was known for his military style and reminded many of a sergeant who put his pupils through basic training. He often roamed the streets of Brownsville like a cop on the beat, trying to keep his players out of trouble. One time when Rivers came late to an important game, it got ugly
""I came late and Gil cursed me out,"" Rivers said with a quite respect. ""I had to hold my ground because my girl now my wife was there and I couldn't have him diss me like that. But after the game he pulled me to the side and told me how important it is to be focused and on time. I never forgot how that day changed my life.
The 38-year-old Rivers remembers soon after that he had a high school game where he scored 42 points for his Erasmus Hall team. Gil called right after and told him to meet him at a gym across town to shoot for an hour to keep my head from getting big. It took me an hour and a half to get there, but I did it.
Despite averaging 30 points his senior year, the 6-2 guard didn't get a D-1 offer. It took a Brooklyn pickup game to seal the deal.
Gil invited the head coach from Lamar Community College in Colorado to watch me play at Kelly Park, and after that run I got a scholarship, Rivers said.
From the playground, Rick became a JUCO All-American and was signed by Iona College based on a recommendation from Jim Couch from the Dyckman Basketball Program.
The Brownsville native never forgot how he made it, and now he spends most of his days and nights in the parks and gyms in Brooklyn, producing premium tournament basketball for players to be seen and showcased.
I was into the street life and running with a crew that had money in the street when I was 15, but Gil had me in a gym or in the park all the time, and it saved my life, he said.
Rivers started his tournament director career in 1999, running an adult tournament called the Funsport Weekend League at Sunset Park that became an instant play when Ed Booger Smith came to participate. From there the Fireball Unlimited League formed that fall and Brooklyn's X-Men signed up first.
Today, Rivers' Funsport Inc. franchise has 10 tournaments that run during the year and his top two the Junior Pros Junior High School League, which plays its championship at Madison Square Garden, and the Spring Fireball Pro League are considered among the best in New York City
Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Jayvaughn Pinkston (Villanova) and Brandon Frasier (Ford-ham) all grew up in the Junior Pros league and Nate Robinson, Charlie Villanueva and Sundiata Gaines all played last spring in the pro league, Rick boasted.
I didn't have a lot when I was growing up, but now I have the chance to work with my daughters, Ashani and Andrea, who help me run the franchise Rick said. I have a complete catalogue of basketball tournaments that addresses every age spectrum in NYC and I'm proud of it.