August 7, 2013 by Seth Rubinroit
By Seth Rubinroit
At the Drew League in Compton, there is a simple test to determine whether a player has truly established himself in the NBA. The test can be performed by watching the athlete walk across the stands, from the locker room to the exit doors.
Most players—college, overseas and even fringe NBA players—can anonymously stroll to their cars after their games.
The elite athletes—the stars that the crowd recognizes from TV—find their path impeded by fans seeking pictures or autographs.
Former USC forward Taj Gibson’s journeys from the locker room to the exit have been more congested than traffic on the 405 freeway, as fans have noticed what he has been able to accomplish in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls.
“It’s an honor,” Gibson said as he gladly signed autographs on Sunday. “You can get away from having fun in the NBA. We come out here to have fun and get laughs.”
Gibson, who won the Drew League Championship in 2012, played on the same team as Kevin Durant on Sunday and guarded Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
“I was talking smack with LaMarcus the whole game,” Gibson said. “His wind and my wind are at about the same level. We were struggling to breathe some air in, but that’s what happens in the offseason.”
Gibson still keeps tabs on his alma mater, and looks forward to seeing what new head coach Andy Enfield will accomplish.
“[Enfield] knows how to get out of the best talent he has,” Gibson said. “The main thing is whether he is going to be able to recruit.”
The Drew League is an annual homecoming for Marcus Johnson.
When he attended UCONN before transferring to USC, the Drew League gave him an opportunity to return and play in front of his family. Now that he is playing overseas, with stops in Croatia and Sweden, he gets to compete against old friends.
“I know most of these guys,” Johnson said, “so I want to come out and show them what I can do.”
Johnson had several highlight-reel plays at the Drew League that will remind USC fans of his athletic dunks at the Galen Center.