NEAR WEST SIDE — More than 100 of Chicago’s best amateur hoopsters will duke it out Saturday for the chance to compete in the second-ever Red Bull Midnight Run basketball showdown to determine which major city has the best game.
On Saturday, the players will be placed on teams in an inter-city tournament at the University of Illinois at Chicago. From there, eight players will be chosen to represent Chicago in the showdown against top players from New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Houston, among others, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in the fall.
Last fall, Chicago took home the title after beating out teams from Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Players including Kent State’s Chris Singletary and Billy Rush, who previously trained with the Milwaukee Bucks, helped bring home last year’s title.
“Chicago had the most talent last year and they also played the best team basketball,” said Josh Gotthelf of Dime Magazine, the basketball magazine that helps organize the event.
But with nine teams this year, Gotthelf said Chicago’s going to have to bring its "A" game.
“It’s definitely going to be much harder to win this year than it was last year,” he said. “It’s really going to come to who makes the shots and what team does what Chicago did last year.”
Brian Centella, who was on last year's winning team in Brooklyn, said it was one of the best basketball moments of his life.
"You're representing your city. You're playing with and against the best players that are not in the NBA. It was a really cool experience," he said.
Shooting hoops is a part time gig for the 26-year-old, who teaches and coaches at George Washington High School on the city's Southeast Side.
"I’m without a doubt a full-time teacher who loves the game and happened to be lucky enough and good enough that I can still play."