Randy Moss and Roy Jones Jr. add star power, but not much shooting prowess, to the USBL.
By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001
LAKELAND -- It was supposed to be a serious basketball game between serious athletes of two other sports.
On one side there was Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss playing for the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs of the United States Basketball League.
On the other side was world light heavyweight boxing champ Roy Jones Jr. and his Lakeland Blue Ducks.
Just for fun, throw in legendary personality and former Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs coach Darryl Dawkins, making his central Florida return as ValleyDawgs coach.
What it turned into was a night to watch local celebrities wander around, a chance to listen to some good trash talk from the stands and a strong argument for pro athletes sticking to one sport.
Oh yeah, Lakeland won 110-107.
The story of the night -- before tip-off -- was Moss playing in his second game for the ValleyDawgs since signing a contract two weeks ago to give himself something to do this summer. It was a chance for local sports fans to see Moss up close without his football helmet.
There were several purple Minnesota jerseys scattered throughout the crowd and it was obvious the Moss tourist attraction was working well.
"I'd come to see him no matter what field or court he's playing on," said Minnesota native and nine-year Lakeland resident Troy Rolfson. "He doesn't look too bad. He made a couple of mistakes, but he also made a couple of points. He's definitely fast."
Tuesday was Rolfson's first Ducks game.
Even Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and defensive lineman Warren Sapp showed up to take in some of Moss' moves, though Sapp spent most of the time signing autographs from his courtside seat, walking across the baseline to grab a drink from the ValleyDawgs cooler and sightseeing around the arena.
Brooks, a good friend of fellow Pensacola native Jones, sat at midcourt and watched the game.
Moss made his first appearance with five minutes left in the first quarter and immediately made his presence known. Thirty-four seconds later he drilled a three-pointer from the left corner, giving Pennsylvania a 26-18 lead.
Unfortunately for the ValleyDawgs, Rolfson and the rest of the 1,247 fans -- more than four times the team's average -- who showed up to watch one of the NFL's best receivers, that was all Moss did.
"Tonight was not his best night, he's a pretty good basketball player," Dawkins said. "He didn't show you the good outside shot he has. I'm glad he plays for us. There's a lot of football coaches that can't say they coached Randy Moss. But now I can say that."
He finished the night with four points on 1-for-6 shooting and could barely get the crowd on its feet when he streaked down the sideline for what amounted to a fly pattern on an inbounds pass. On that play it was Lakeland's Jermaine Walker who thrilled the numerous Bucs fans decked out in their red jerseys by coming across the court to intercept the pass.
Moss spent the final 6:44 of the game on the bench, the last two minutes of it sitting on the baseline talking to a fan.
"Personally, I think he should stick to football," Rolfson said.
Jones, part owner of the Ducks, wasn't much better. He matched Moss' four points, hitting one of his seven field-goal attempts.