By Alex Conover
Saint Mary’s University will host the Hustle Up Streetball Tour on Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m. in the gym. Tickets are $13 in advance and can be purchased at Midtown Foods or by calling Katie LaPlant at 612-382-3041 or visiting her office in Toner 8B. Tickets are $20 at the door.
The Cardinal talked with Phillip Champion, better known as “Hot Sauce.” Hot Sauce is one of the premier streetballers in the world, his trademark being his exceptional ball-handling.
Read more... Streetball is a variation of basketball played in big cities, where emphasis is placed more on electrifying dunks and tricks rather than fundamentals.
Hot Sauce and other accomplished streetballers like Highrizer, A.O., and Spyda will face off against players from SMU and other local “personalities.”
Q: How did you get involved with streetball? Or rather, how did you make it to the mainstream?
A: Well, it wasn’t mainstream when I first got on. It was just some guys from Rucker [Park] and they had a small four-city tour … Then some people from the brand “AND1” contacted them on starting a bigger tour. They got some of the same guys from Rucker, and they had a five-city tour. I think it was Atlanta, Chicago, Philly, and some other places. They wanted to go out and show people how the game was played out there, in Rucker Park. After the tour, though, they wanted to go out to different cities because they knew there were tons of players in other cities. So they were looking around, and once they got to Atlanta, they started asking around if anyone had handles. That’s when my name came up: “Hot Sauce. Yeah, he can play.” So they brought me out to Cali, and I was supposed to play against the all-stars. At the last second, they decided to put me on the all-star team before that game, and I stayed ever since. This was just supposed to be a fling … I had no idea it would last.
Q: Where’d you get the nickname “Hot Sauce?”
A: I was touring around with my handles, showing off, and every time I made a shot I said “Sauce!” ... I said it so much, when people were picking teams they just started saying “Hey, I want Sauce,” or “What’s up, Sauce?” After a while it turned into “Hot Sauce” … the handles are hot, and the sauce is my jumper! (laughs)
Q: You took off a year from the “AND1” tour. Why was that?
A: That was when my son was born, and I wanted to spend time with him. Also, during that time I did a Mountain Dew commercial and was in the movie “Crossover,” so I’m pretty glad I took that break.
Q: Speaking of “Crossover,” does Wayne Brady have any game?
A: Well, Wayne was playing a promoter/coach character. I don’t think he picked up a basketball once during the filming … No, he’s not a player.
Q: Would you ever trade your ball-handling ability for someone else’s jumping ability?
A: Never. My handling is natural … You know, there’s guys out there watching me, trying to handle like me. Well, I don’t watch anybody … that’s my trademark. My trademark is my handle, so no, I wouldn’t trade it.
Q: What do you say to people that accuse you of traveling with the ball or carrying?
A: They really can’t call that on me. I’m doing it on purpose; they know I could not carry. If I do a carry or a slow-motion dribble to the other hand, come on, that’s on purpose.
Q: When you were growing up, was there any NBA player you especially admired?
A: Kevin Johnson, Isiah Thomas … Michael Jordan a little bit, but he did all his tricks in the air. I couldn’t do that stuff, so I related to the short guys. There are guys out there right now that I like to watch; I don’t really look up to them, but I like watching Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, Baron Davis.
Q: What are your plans once you’re done playing streetball?
A: Start my own brand of sneakers, headbands, a clothing line.
Q: Any closing words?
A: Just tell everyone to get ready … tie their shoes up tight.