Former hoops star concentrates on coaching

Photo by Joseph Staszewski
By Joseph Staszewski

Rafer Alston hasn’t played in the NBA since his 2010 stint with the Miami Heat and the New Jersey Nets. Still, the former Benjamin Cardozo point guard isn’t exactly ready to call it quits on his playing career, but but admitted it’s “pretty much” over.

“I don’t know. I still have the urge,” said Alston, now 36.

He took another shot at the league when he joined the Los Angeles Defenders of the NBA Development League in 2012, but struggled in limited playing time. Alston, nicknamed “Skip to My Lou” for his incredible ball-handling skills and famed streetball career, is continuing his involvement with the game on the coaching side. He got the head job at Humble (Texas) Christian Life Center in 2011, lasting just one season, after working on the AAU circuit with the Panthers.

“That gave me the urge to start coaching,” Alston said of his time with the Panthers.

He hasn’t lost the desire to help young people. Alston said he is just relaxing right now, but is doing basketball camps in different countries and just got back from one in Indonesia.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I can help people out on every level. I played at every level. I know what to expect. I know what to tell the kids as they are moving up the ranks of basketball.”

Alston also has not forgot his place in streetball history and fans haven’t forgotten him. He was out watching games at the Nike Pro City unlimited league at Baruch College last week and got a warm round of applause. He was a guest coach along with former Abraham Lincoln star Sebastian Telfair of a team of New York City All-Stars selected to take on the BallUp Streetball team at City College July 20. He thinks his presence at events gives competitors and fans a link to the past.

“I remember my days of doing the same thing when I was with And1,” Alston said. “Everywhere we go people enjoy coming out to watch that type of ball.”

He looks back fondly on his NBA career, knowing how many others tried and are still trying to get to where he was. Alston, who was drafted in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998, averaged 10.1 points per game and 4.8 playing for the Bucks, Raptors, Heat, Rockets, Magic and Nets. Though he still desires to be playing, he knows those days have likely past and is content with what he’s accomplished.

“I’m lucky I can say I was a winner,” Alston said. “I played with so many different teams, I’ve been to the playoffs most of my career, I’ve been a starter most of my career. It’s been a great ride.”

More from Around New York