Metta World Peace, Gilbert Arenas and streetball legends draw a crowd at Towson

The Baltimore Sun

Before the doors opened Saturday evening at SECU Arena, there was a line of people in front of the main entrance that stretched down the sidewalk.

The Ball Up All-Stars, a team of streetball legends, stopped at Towson as part of their countrywide summer tour, and some fans waited 21/2 hours to make sure they had good seats.

Demetrius Spencer, CEO of streetball tour Ball Up, said after the game that attendance gradually has increased since the team was formed in 2009. That trend was evident in the All-Stars' matchup against a team of Baltimore locals hoping to someday earn the same fame as their Ball Up opponents.

The competition for Ball Up has improved, too: The All-Stars managed only a 109-102 win against a 10-player Baltimore team formed earlier in the day during an open tryout and coached by former NBA stars Gilbert Arenas and Metta World Peace.

"It's been really tough everywhere that we've been," Spencer said.

Two weeks ago, the All-Stars lost, 84-83, in Birmingham, Ala., spoiling their undefeated record.

The players on Baltimore's team were competing to be named one of the team's two Most Valuable Players, who get a chance to try out for the team that plays the All-Stars in the Aug. 23 championship in Las Vegas. The championship MVP gets a contract offer to become part of the Ball Up roster.

Tyson "Too Easy" Jacobs got last year's All-Star contract. The 6-foot-2 guard from Baltimore, who played at Stevenson two seasons ago, now gets paid to play alongside longtime stars such as Grayson "The Professor" Boucher and Larry "Bone Collector" Williams.

"It's probably one of the biggest blessings I've received as far as basketball is concerned," Jacobs said after the game. "They've treated me like a family member."

The crowd roared when Jacobs was introduced in the starting lineup. Though he stayed mostly on the bench during Saturday's game, he said playing with some of streetball's best has helped him become a better player.

And a more competitive schedule has made for a more intense spectacle. Players appealed to the referee after foul calls, and both teams got more physical as the game went on.

"It makes it better for the streetball era," Jacobs said. "It gives the viewers and the fans an opportunity to see that it's not scripted. It's real. This is real basketball."

Still, the All-Stars know they have to put on a show. Simple layups and dunks elicited boos from the crowd, and a big block of an All-Stars player's shot attempt got fans out of their seats.

"It actually helps the home team to see their hometown people come out," Spencer said. "We were getting booed; I don't know if booing really helps you. But it does help the local guys show up and do their thing."

The game "could've went any direction," Spencer said. "Baltimore had a really strong team, a well-rounded team. And I was wondering if we were going to take an 'L' out here tonight."

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