Round one of the Red Bull Midnight Run is now complete, as the competition for the ultimate bragging rights made its final stop in Houston. The competition kicked off June 1, and over three months we hit nine cities: Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston.
Each city brought their best talent to the table for the opportunity to represent their hometown against the eight other cities. Over the course of the summer we’ve seen a combination of great talent from all corners of the nation. Although all the rosters are not yet set, each city has a great group of players worthy of claiming that their city produces the top basketball talent.
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In Houston, we had the largest turnout of any city yet. Roughly 120 players came out to a sports complex right outside of downtown to compete for an opportunity to represent H-Town. These guys played as well as any other city we’ve seen and they played hard all night. Guys were fighting for a chance to get back on the court after every loss. The passion and intensity in the gym was off the charts. It was a competitive environment that held its fire all night long.
The Red Bull Midnight Run is not an open run. Not anyone can just show up to the gym and play. These players are hand-picked, and because we invite them, we expect the talent in the gym to always be up to par. However, with more than 100 guys competing in the same gym, you would expect a few slouches. That wasn’t the case. There were about 23 different teams suiting up and each team was equipped with talent from top to bottom. Before these players are given their uniforms, they are responsible for picking their five. Whether they come with a team already or they link up with a few new guys on site, they need to have a squad by tip-off. If they don’t, we step in and pair them up with a team.
Former New Mexico standout Jamal Fenton brought along his friend and high school teammate Robert Martinez and the two dominated all night together. After winning their first five games pouring in threes and linking up for numerous fast break layups, the dynamic duo â€” along with three other friends â€” were matched up against an undefeated team equipped with five guys standing 6-3 and up. It was the main event of the entire night. With MouthPiece calling the game on the mic and the DJ spinning courtside, all eyes were on this premier matchup.
Fenton didn’t waste any time establishing the up-tempo pace of the game. Just seconds after the tip, he came down, mixed the defender to the tune of ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd and drilled a three in his face. But that was just the start. He followed it up with two more earning the name “I Cook” from MouthPiece in the process. With contributions from his buddy Rob Martinez, their squad jumped out to a quick lead. However, size matters and eventually they were outmuscled underneath by the bigger and stronger opposition and ended up losing the game by two.
The loss came in honorable fashion, as Fenton and Martinez gained the attention of almost everyone in the gym for their undeniable on-court chemistry. They knew each other’s every move and were easily the best backcourt in the gym.
“Robert and I have been best friends for awhile,” says Fenton. “In high school we took a no name program to the Regional Finals and fell one game short of making it to State.”
The two played together at Cesar E. Chaves High School and lost to Strait Jesuit High School (the No. 1 team in the country at the time) their senior year â€” barely missing a chance to compete in the state tournament.
“Before our team, our school never had a winning season,” said Martinez, a 6-2 off-guard with lights out shooting ability. “After that, me and Jamal went our separate ways in college but we still play together all the time and our chemistry on the court never died because of that.”
With Fenton and Martinez in the backcourt, combined with a few of the sizeable players that gave them their only loss of the night, the Houston squad will be a well-rounded team equipped with enough talent to compete against the other eight cities.
However, until every team is set, there’s no telling where they rank. Check back with us this fall for our official Red Bull Midnight Run review and pre-tournament team rankings.
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