A local basketball team is headed to a national tournament in search of a big win. The players also hope to score a big win for one of their own off the court in the process.
The PrimeTime Players, a York County-based team with a number of local ties, won its fourth-straight East Coast Basketball League title in late June, taking down the Hickory Hoyas, 134-118, in the championship game. The crown is the club’s seventh minor-league title in a row, the first three in the Tobacco Road Basketball League, and the team is 103-7 (62-0 at home) over the last three seasons.
The club features many players who prepped at York County schools, including former Northwestern High and Wingate standout Sean Barnette, who lead the team with 42 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists in its championship game victory, claiming Finals MVP honors. Victor Street (Rock Hill High/Erskine) and PJ Heath (South Pointe/Allen University) are also on the club’s roster, with Heath receiving All-League plaudits.
Local businesses and organizations are also sponsoring the club to help with its travel and other costs, including Carolina Ale House, Mt. Hebron Dreamkeepers Optimist Club, and Turn Key Home Builders.
The team will now look to continue its championship run in The Basketball Tournament, a 72-team, bracketed tournament.
“(I’m) happy we won another championship, and (I’m) ready to go to battle with my teammates against some of the best teams in the country in The Basketball Tournament,” Street said.
The PrimeTime Players open play at 8:10 a.m. in Columbus, Ohio, on July 21, facing Always A Brave, a team comprised of Bradley University alumni. That game will be streamed live on WatchESPN, with a 4 p.m. spot on ESPN2 awaiting the winner the following day. PrimeTime Players will make its fifth appearance in the tournament, playing its fourth in a row.
A victory nets the champion a $2,000,000 prize.
That prize would carry some significant extra weight for the PrimeTime Players.
William Massey, a former member of the team and part of the inspiration behind the team’s name, is in need of a heart transplant. Massey, a Rock Hill resident, played with some of the players on this year’s squad, and is closely connected to owner/head coach Chris Thomas. This makes the mission a bit more personal for Thomas. Should the club bring home the win, $100,000 of the winnings will go directly to Massey’s medical fund.
“We have played over a hundred games a year since 1998, and me and Will were together for close to 12 years, so we spent a lot of time together,” said Thomas. “Once we found out he was in need of a transplant, the first thing I thought about was making sure if we win, that we do something to help him out.”
Massey’s wife, Felisa, has also set up a fundraiser to help defray some of the costs. That fundraiser is nearing its $10,000 goal. Thomas would love nothing more than to guide his team though the tourney and give that account a much-needed boost.
“We know we have a large task in front of us, but we are prepared and ready to go,” Thomas said.
“Winning seven championship games in a row is a great accomplishment, and if you put that together with playing for two million dollars, it’s like icing on the cake,” added guard Terell Smith. Smith played at White Knoll and Limestone, and is now a trainer with Smith Elite Training, working with the Upper Palmetto YMCA.
Keeping in line with the PrimeTime Players’ local roots, the team will have a brand-new home as it prepares to shoot for a fifth-straight ECBL title. The club will play in the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center, the indoor sports complex coming soon to the city. The venue will offer seating for up to 1,200 fans.
“We will still play some games at Banks Street (Gym, in Fort Mill), but are looking forward to playing at this brand-new, state-of-the-art facility, and are thankful that the city and (City of Rock Hill Parks, Recreation & Tourism Athletic Supervisor) Brian Jones think enough of us that they want us to represent Rock Hill as their championship minor league basketball team,” stated Thomas.
“We are also partnered up with Catawba Sports, who have been with us since year one and have a youth cheer squad that makes every home game.”
Heath believes there could be another reason to celebrate in the new facility.
“i feel like we have a very competitive team, and i look forward to the competition,” said Heath. “And I know with the team we have, we will do great, and could win the whole thing.”
Fans can keep up with the team’s progress and game highlights on the tournament’s official Twitter page (@thetournament). For more information on the Masseys’ fundraiser, Felisa Massey can be reached by phone at (803) 524-2658. You can also go to paypal.com/pools/c/8422UjiLgA or to a GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/primetime-players-tbt-2018.