A native of Queens, N.Y., former Romanian pro Haron “H2O” Hargrave hopes to bring the community together in his fifth version of the Queen’s Day 5-on-5 basketball tournament on August 20-21.
Hargrave’s event will bring the community together for food, music and an intense basketball tournament of 12 teams playing for a grand prize of $5,000 at the Roy Wilkins Park and Recreation Center in Queens. The format is a double-elimination style tournament of eight-man rosters, who will decide the winner by the end of a 20-minute game (with the clock stopping only in the last two minutes), or whomever first reaches 21 by ones and twos.
“I originally started it as a stop the violence campaign,” says Hargrave, who founded the event with friend Dave Bucknor after H2O often returned from college in California to learn friends like Sean Bell, Stack Bundles and Jam Master J had lost their lives to violence in Queens. “I wanted to bring back something positive back to Queens.”
Queens Day isn’t just basketball – vendors, musicians and food will also make up the two-day event that Hargrave hopes to be a family-oriented outing.
“You’re know you’re going to have a great day, you’re going to leave with a couple shirts, a couple CDs,” says Hargrave. “And you get some great basketball, watch some people compete for a chance to win $5,000.”
The deadline for teams to sign up and pay a $600 fee per team is August 15. Spots are still available and inquiries can be send to Hargrave himself, who says he’s grown his event by word of mouth and personally handling out fliers – after he destroys his opponents on the streetball courts, of course.
We also caught up with Hargrave about his own basketball future and how nasty the Euroleague circuit can really be.
Dime: What are you up to as far as your career?
Hargrave: Right now, I’m a free agent. I’m looking to be playing this fall. I’ve been putting in a lot of work in the gym. I sort of, kind of have an agent. A lot of these agents don’t put the same work in that you put into your game, that they put into you. It’s almost like a modeling agency, that’s how I look at it. They just send your resume out to different teams and that’s pretty much it. You’re just a number to them. Sometimes I get kind of discouraged by basketball by that. Right now, it’s not in my hands, it’s in someone else’s hands. It’s not all about what you can do. I can play basketball, I’ve proven that over and over and over again. It’s not what you can do, it’s who you know. But I love this game, and I’m looking to play somewhere this fall back overseas. I’m pushing hard. I’m looking for whatever help I can get right now. My story’s kind of crazy because I feel like I was once at the top and now I’m scratchin’ to get a team.
I’ve had a D-League contract, I was in the D-League draft pool. When I was in Romania, I had another opportunity to go back to Romania, and I turned down the deal. You know, a lot of people lie about how much money they can give, and I thought I could possibly get more money. My agent who I had shut his agency down in the middle of the summer, so I’m sitting there with a D-League contract, I’m in the draft pool. I didn’t get drafted, because I had to find someone to represent me.
My friend, Yatta Gaines got drafted. He hit the big shot (with the Utah Jazz on Jan. 14, 2010) against Cleveland and people are like, “That could have been you.” It was just kind of demoralizing to me. But I’m keepin’ pushing. I’m just ready, I’m working out, in the best shape of my life right now. I’m doing everything I can do to keep myself relevant and active until somebody comes along and sees me.
I’m actually going to the Eurobasket camp this weekend at St. Peters College. I have a team from Portugal that’s coming to look at me, and a team from France (coming) basically to look at me. Hopefully that works out. Once I get over there, I know the important stuff.
I was kind of young when the first time I went over there; I had three coaches in the first month. Coming from D-I (Sacramento State), being the man, to going overseas (Romania) and in the first month of your season you ran into three coaches already. That’s kind of crazy and different.
Dime: From what I’ve been reading … if teams offer you this much money, is it true teams are shaky on if they have enough money to pay?
Hargrave: Actually, this is the craziest and funniest story ever; one of my teams, they cut us our pay like 50 percent. They said it was ’cause we didn’t listen to the coach. They said the coach said to win and we lost, so they were going to cut our pay because we didn’t win. It wasn’t like no disrespectful thing like the coach said, “run laps” and we didn’t run — then you’re being unruly, disorderly, stuff like that. They said, “the coach said to win” and we didn’t win. It didn’t work – all the Americans, we all sat out the practice and didn’t practice. After the practice they negotiated with us and they gave us the money. But sometimes they make promises and they have financial problems and they lose sponsorships.
There are real businesses and stuff like that, that put money into teams. When people drop out, a lot of teams fold and they don’t have money. Those stories are true. Things like that happen. One of my teammates, we had dinner, team dinner after practice. They were paying everybody, giving everybody envelopes. They gave one of our teammates his envelope with half his pay, and then they said, “Hold on.” They gave him another other envelope and they said, “There’s your flight, you’re leaving tonight, 1 a.m.” It was like 6 in the afternoon, they’re like, you’re leaving tonight, go get your stuff.” That was it. Shady stuff like that happens.
When you want to play basketball, these are the types of things you go through when you’re not playing in the NBA. Every year when you’re playing overseas, my take on it? It’s like you’re being recruited every single year. You don’t have a guaranteed contract. Everyday I wake up like, man, I don’t know where I’m going to go this year. It gets kind of stressful sometimes. All you can do is work out and try to network, and try to reach out to people. It’s kind of crazy. Nothing’s signed ’til the delivery. It’s not like if you do this (and) that, you get this. It’s like, you can do this (and) that, and get nothing. It’s tough, it’s really tough.
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