A plethora of Santa Clarita Valley basketball players will take the court on Tuesday at Golden Valley High School to fund a team trip to the AsiaBasket Tournament in Manila next month.
The AsiaBasket tournament features professional teams from numerous Asian countries but will welcome a United States team led by SCV alums and local youth basketball coaches Taylor Statham and Travis Divita.
The SCV team will be competing against squads from the Thailand Super League, ASEAN League and Malaysian Leagues. The tournament will host a mix of talented players ranging from former NBA starters to younger players looking for their start.
Statham is eyeing the top of the podium at the tournament but feels the real goal is to get members of his team signed professionally.
“My goal is to get like five or six guys signed,” Statham said in a phone interview. “Obviously Travis and I aren’t trying to play anywhere but this could open doors. If we win a championship, host some camps, help them get American fans, if we help them grow, it could be something we go to every year.”
The team features local talent such as Isaac Davis, Austin Galuppo and Chris Joo. Davis is Valencia High School’s all-time leader in assists and a NAIA All-American. Galuppo is a West Ranch and Weber State hoops alumnus. Joo is a former point guard for College of the Canyons but also plays for the Korean American National Team.
Divita, a Canyon and The Master’s University alumnus, is regarded as one of the best pure shooters to come out the SCV.
Lastly, the veteran Statham, a Golden Valley alumnus, has played professionally in 13 countries and understands the AsiaBasket level of play better than anyone on the team.
“The imports that all these teams bring are NBA G-League-level guys,” Statham said. “Even the local players have mostly played on national teams, in Olympic qualifiers and on huge stages.”
The team also features former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess, who is transitioning to basketball after a successful NFL career. Funchess had two catches in Super Bowl 50 for 40 yards and led the Panthers in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2017.
“He’s just a freak athlete, he’s a natural,” Statham said of Funchess. “He’s been here the last couple of days and I’m surprised how well he can shoot. He has great instincts and he’s a really good guy. When you’re making millions of dollars in the NFL, you walk with professionalism and toughness. That’s what we needed.”
The team has had several practices together and hopes to put on a show on Tuesday night. The squad knows the tournament could entail a pivotal chance that greenlights their professional basketball careers.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these guys,” Statham said. “I want to make sure they do their part and I want to go above and beyond to do mine. I want to give them a platform and make sure the right people are watching them to get them signed and marketed.”
The tournament is all about getting players to the next step in their careers but for Statham, he’ll finally be able to play high-level basketball in front of the newest additions to his family.
“There’s nothing like playing,” Statham said. “So now, I’ll be playing in front of my kids. My son Maddox is 3 years old so he’s kind of understanding what’s going on with all of this. Playing in front of him for me is really special.”
AsiaBasket will be a seven-game, 10-day tournament with a little different physicality than American basketball. All of the SCV team members have had success in their collegiate careers but will adjust into different, more physical games in Manila.
Nonetheless, Statham and the squad are thrilled for the opportunity. The team’s exhibition game will be Tuesday night at Golden Valley High School at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the event, with all proceeds funding the team’s trip to AsiaBasket. Fans can keep up with the team at www.asia-basket.com as all games will be livestreamed.
“These guys have dreamed and worked their whole lives for this,” Statham said. “We’re super excited for this.”