Highlight plays, high-flying offense and high energy. The Statham Academy exhibition game featured tons of highs as the team put on a show on Tuesday at Golden Valley High School ahead of their trip to the AsiaBasket Tournament.
Golden Valley alumnus Taylor Statham led his team with 27 points and over a dozen rebounds in the exhibition, winning the game 93-76 at his alma mater.
Canyon and The Master’s University alumnus Travis Divita added 16 points, mostly off his sharpshooting from behind the arc. The team moved the ball around as every player scored at least two buckets.
“The group is great,” Divita said. “Everybody is established and is trying to play quality basketball, which is refreshing. In pickup basketball, people do their own thing but that’s not the case. We’ll have sets, motions and guys that are willing to make the extra pass. The ball will be moving. There’s no single focal point and that’s a strength for us. Any one of us can go off for 20-30 a game, we’ll let the defense decide who.”
Former NFL wide receiver Devin Funchess has also joined the team in hopes of finding a professional basketball home. Funchess, a former Carolina Panther who played in the Super Bowl, has already accomplished one of his childhood dreams but is now aiming for his original dream of playing pro basketball.
“It may seem crazy and things of that nature, but I’ve already hit my first dream at 20 years old,” Funchess said. “I’m 29 years old now. There’s not that much of a gap. So, I’m just trying to understand what the opportunity is and seize it.”
Statham Academy high-energy guard Dominique Williams scored 20 points while Isaac Etter added 12. For Funchess, the pair are two of the team’s many energetic players who can swing the momentum of games.
“Everybody’s got energy,” Funchess said. “Everybody has their roles that we are very great at. We’re gonna go out there and show other teams, other executives overseas and over here in America, what we’re made of.”
The game was no walk in the park nor anything like a Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals game. Each team featured basketball stars who have played professionally all over the world.
Ron Harris, a Greenville hoops alumnus, and Mikey Williams, a two-time Philippine Basketball Association Cup Finals MVP, led the way against the Statham squad.
AsiaBasket is one of the biggest basketball tournaments in the world, and will give players from every team a shot at new career opportunities.
Statham is aiming to get at least half of his team in front of the right people. Divita currently coaches youth basketball locally at the Statham Academy and Creators AAU program, but wouldn’t pass up the right offer.
“If there was an offer that was right, I’d take it,” Divita said. “But from a coaching and resume standpoint, having AsiaBasket on the resume is huge. Obviously, at some point I’ll be done with Creators, and I wanna make sure I can get a job working with higher-level players. I see myself coaching at the college or pro level.”
Funchess, Williams and Etter will be playing for some sort of professional contract along with Valencia alumnus Isaac Davis and West Ranch alumnus Chris Joo, who both will play in the tournament but sat out with minor injuries on Tuesday.
The young team is trying to grasp what’s in store as the game is played a little differently in Asia. Statham has experience playing in numerous Asian countries while Divita served in the military on the continent. The two are doing everything they can to prepare their team for any culture shock.
“Me and Tay are the elder statesmen, and we have some younger guys with us,” Divita said. “We’ll be able to help with any culture shock. We have a great group of competitive guys that just enjoy competition. It doesn’t matter if it gets ugly or professional, we’re like chameleons, we can adapt.”
The team ships off to the tournament in Manila on Sunday with championship aspirations. However, the team still holds the higher goal of furthering the careers of the mostly Santa Clarita-based players.
“It’s been surreal to have another shot,” Funchess said. “So we’ve just been locking in and making sure that we’re aware of what we have to do, our responsibilities and just go get the championship.”