Meet The Best Players At Boston’s Red Bull King Of The Rock

While the action this weekend in Boston at the Red Bull King of the Rock tournament was fast and furious, I still found the time to sit down with some of the best players from the afternoon, guys like Daniel Munn, Marcus Barnett, Aljo Mrkulic, Sedale Threatt Jr. and Tony Lee.

All of them have interesting takes on their journeys, how they got here and what lies ahead in their basketball futures…

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Dime: What is your basketball background?
Daniel Munn: Well I grew up playing basketball. I’ve been playing since I was five years old. I played a lot of intramural basketball at [UC Davis]. I played with Brandan Striplin, who you guys did a feature on. He plays in the D-League now. I’ve been coaching sixth grade AAU basketball for the past two years. I tried out for the team at UC Davis but I didn’t make it. But that is one of the best intramural basketball systems in the nation right there. It is real competitive.

Dime: What makes it so competitive?
DM: All of the athletes play in it. Even the basketball players that redshirt play in it. We have football players, water polo players, good refs, everything.

Dime: What did you think of Brandan Striplin’s game?
DM: He was a hustler. He wasn’t the most fine-tuned player but this guy could hustle. He knew how to play defense. Whenever he showed up to play and there was someone tough to guard on the other team, he would guard him. I loved going head-to-head against him because it was always just a battle. You know when people are playing defense in pick-up games it is real basketball!

Dime: Why do you think he got cut?
DM: To be honest, I don’t know. He had the best tryout out of eight of us. I thought three of us had a good shot of making the team, but I don’t know. Apparently something just fell through with the coach. That coach is gone now. Brandan definitely deserved to be on the team, I mean he just got signed a contract in the D-League.

Dime: At 6-6, what position do you play?
DM: I’m a guard. I grew late in high school so I’ve always been playing guard.

Dime: How tall were you before?
DM: I was 5-10 my freshman year in high school.

Dime: Who do you compare your game to?
DM: That’s a tough question. I’m a tall shooter, so I’m a tough matchup for some people. My idol is Dirk Nowitzki. I’ve been following him since he was a skinny 19-year-old in the NBA. I don’t have his shot; I’m working on that. I definitely think I play a little harder on defense than Dirk. I’m a hustler so maybe I’d compare myself to a Kevin Love or Kris Humphries.

Dime: What do you plan on doing in the future? Staying around basketball?
DM: Yes, definitely staying around basketball. I want to continue my coaching career. It is a dream of mine to be a coach. I love giving back to the game. And I also think that because Brandan made it, I might as well give the D-League a shot and go out to the camp they have. I might just start training hard because he proved that people who don’t have any professional or collegiate experience can make it. There are a lot of guys in the NBA that aren’t the quickest, like Jason Kidd, but if you know that game, you can make it. I think I can do that.

Dime: How do you think you played today?
DM: I played hard out here today. The guy I lost to went 5-5 from outside. That’s tough to beat in a five-minute game. I played physical. He had a bloody lip, I got smacked in the head a few times. It was fun though.

Dime: Where did your nickname “Half N Half” come from?
HNH: It came come a lot of things. I’m half point guard, half big man. My hair is half cut, half dreads. You name it. Half man, half amazing, it is whatever you want it to be.

Dime: What is your basketball background?
HNH: See I didn’t play basketball in college. I went to St. John’s College High School with Chris Wright (former Georgetown point guard) and Dante Cunningham. That’s the extent of my basketball career. I just played high school. Other than that, it’s just street ball for me. I played wide receiver, number 85, at University of Cincinnati.

Dime: Now I heard you drove from Washington, D.C to here. What made you do that?
HNH: I lost off of a last minute bank shot in the first round of the King of the Rock tournament in D.C. That was in the first round too. That didn’t sit well with me because I knew I was better than a majority of the guys there. I just came up here and did the same thing. [Tony Lee] played a good game though. A couple of calls went the other way, but he still won.

Dime: What did you think of Tony Lee’s game?
HNH: You can’t really tell much about a man’s game from playing one-on-one. It’s not about your skill set out here, it is more about the mismatches. Obviously he has a bigger body than me so he’s going to go to the lane. I’m quicker so I’m going to try to make a move and get a shot up.

Dime: What are your plans for the future?
HNH: I don’t really know. I’m going to head overseas. I may end up playing arena football. I may end up in the NFL. I don’t really know right now, I’m just keeping my options open.

Dime: What is your basketball background?
Sedale Threatt Jr.: I played high school basketball at St. Sebastian’s. After that I went to Lehigh University. I tried to walk on the team, but I played football as well. Coach really did not want me playing two sports and going there. I’ve always been playing ball though. I’ve been playing against Tony Lee since I was 13-years-old. I spent this last year in the CBL in Wilmington, North Carolina with the Wilmington Sea Dawgs. I worked out for a lot of NBA D-League teams.

Dime: Your father, Sedale Threatt Sr., was a big-time NBA player. What was it like having a parent who played in the NBA?
ST: Sometimes it was tough because you have a bullseye on your back. Especially since we have the same name. It was always cool to see him on television and have people know your name. For me, that just motivated me more because he is my dad and I always had a name to uphold.

Dime: How did your football career go?
ST: I got drafted by the Calgary Stampede and played a couple of years in arena league football. After that I hung up the cleats and follow in my dad’s footsteps.

Dime: Is there any particular reason why you ended up choosing football over basketball?
ST: I always loved being physical. I loved basketball as well, but my mom worked for the New England Patriots for nine years when I was growing up. I was always around football players. That’s why I lived in Boston too by the way.

Dime: The DJ mentioned you haven’t gotten a lot of media attention today. Do you think you’ve flown under-the-radar?
ST: (laughs) A little bit. I’ve played four games to get to the semi-finals so a lot of people have gotten to see me play today at least. If the DJ doesn’t know me, that’s fine with me. I’m just trying to win that money.

Dime: Who would you compare your game to?
ST: Somebody called me Ron Artest the other day. I was like “I’m only 6-2, I’m not Ron Artest.” I can’t really tell you one. I like parts of everyone’s games. I like to look at guys like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Michael Jordan. I want to be like everybody. I want to beast the boards like Charles Barkeley.

Dime: What are your plans in the future?
ST: For me, I just want to play ball. I play football. I need to compete. That’s why I come out to things like this Redbull tournament. I love to compete and see who is better than me. If they prove themselves, they prove themselves that day, and then it is back to the gym.

Dime: Aljo, you have been to every single RedBull King of the Rock tournament. Why do you keep coming back?
Aljo Mrkulic: I come back because every time I get beat, it is not them beating me. It is me beating myself. I do stupid stuff like getting too many fouls.

Dime: Are you planning on going to the next one?
AM: I think I am going to Virginia for one more time.

Dime: What is your basketball background?
AM: I played one year as a walk-on at St. John’s then I f*cked up my grades and my mom wouldn’t let me play basketball anymore. That’s about it though.

Dime: Where can people find you playing right now?
AM: Just on the streets. I play in streetball leagues like the CBL and West Fordham.

Dime: Who would you compare your game to?
AM: People say I play like J.J Barea. I see myself as more of a combination of Ron Artest, for the defense, and Vince Carter, for the hang time. (This comment was made post-head injury.)

Dime: What are your plans for the future?
AM: My cousin plays for the Montenegro basketball team. I just graduated from college so next summer I’m going to tryout there.

Dime: Your name “Aljo” is pretty unique. What country of origin is it from?
AM: Yugoslavian.

Dime: However, people call you “O.J”. Where did that nickname come from?
AM: Well people call me “O.J” and “Hustle Man”. They call me “Hustle Man” because I’m always diving on the floor. They call me “O.J” because I was always underestimated so they said that I’m always killing them and getting away with it like O.J Simpson.

Dime: You were bleeding from your head earlier. You could have gotten seriously hurt, but you chose to keep playing. Why did you risk it?
AM: To tell you the truth, when I am playing basketball, I don’t feel anything. I could break a leg and not feel anything. I might feel it the next day though.

Dime: You came to the park today with a mean mug on your face and it never came off until you won. Any reason why you didn’t change your expression the whole time?
Tony Lee: I mean it is basketball. This is what I do for a living. Any time I step on the court, I go hard and try to win. There is no smiling when I get on the court. The only time I smile is when I am off the court.

Dime: How would you describe your career at Robert Morris?
TL: Someday I hope to go into the hall of fame there. I have all sorts of records. I am the all-time leading rebounder. I got player of the year in the conference. I had a great career.

Dime: How about your high school career?
TL: I went to Charlestown High School and won three state titles. We were the number one team in the state every year and played a in a few national tournaments. I scored over 1000 points and grabbed over 700 rebounds. I had a real great career.

Dime: New England is starting to produce a lot of college basketball players. Is there anyone we should look out for?
TL: You have to look out for Shabazz Napier who plays for UConn. They just won the national title! Another guy would be Raheem Singleton who plays for Maine now (Raheem is featured in award-winning documentary Push: Madison vs. Madison).

Dime: What are your plans for the future in basketball?
TL: I was just playing in Austria. Now, I’m just sitting here waiting to get a job. I hope things go well for me and get out of here.

Dime: Do you plan on staying in Europe or are you looking at other options as well?
TL: It depends on how my body feels. Ultimately, anybody who plays basketball wants to play in the NBA, but if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I had a great career overseas and I plan to keep it that way.

Dime: Who do you compare your game to?
TL: That’s a great question. I don’t really compare my game to anyone. I do it all. I rebound. I pass. I shoot. I post up. I’m a guy that does it all. I’m a guy that doesn’t compare myself to anybody. I just compare myself to Tony Lee.

Dime: Even though you are a guard, you lead your team in rebounding at Robert Morris. How did you become such a good rebounder?
TL: Toughness. Rebounding is not for the guy that is the tallest. It is for the guy that wants it the most. When the ball is in the air, it is anybody’s ball. It just depends on who wants to get it. I play hard every game and want to get every loose ball I can get.

Dime: What was your mindset going into this tournament?
TL: 1000 dollars. That’s it. I was asleep when they called me but 1000 dollars was all that was on my mind when I got here.

Dime: Did you just find out about the tournament today?
TL: No, I knew about it, I was just being lazy. I was going to play in another tournament across the city today too. Last year, I played in the 2-on-2 tournament and had a tough loss. Then when they called me today, I had to redeem myself.

Dime: How does it feel getting the $1000?
TL: It’s great. Who can’t use $1000. Anybody I know can use $1000!

What do you think?

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