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Financial hardships hit Panama City Breeze players - Mar 29, 2013

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Clifford Clinkscales (6'1''-PG-84, college: De Paul) and Larry Bastfield (6'0''-G-90, college: Morgan St.) dont know what the future holds for them as basketball players.
What they do know is that this isnt how they want their careers to end.
Clinkscales, Bastfield and four other teammates on the Panama City Breeze mens basketball team are facing eviction from their shared home and are essentially stranded in Bay County after the American Basketball League abruptly canceled the remainder of its schedule for teams both in Florida and in Texas two weeks ago. Clinkscales and Bastfield described their untenable situation while seated on a bed in a nearly empty living room amidst a handful of folding chairs.
I came here for the opportunity, Bastfield said, noting the ABL operated using international rules and was created to provide a jumping-off point for players to pursue opportunities with basketball teams overseas. We knew that (a playing salary) was not a factor when we came to the ABL. It was the opportunity to play pro basketball with FIBA rules, stay on in the states and play. It was never about the money.
Until it was.
Bastfield and Clinkscales both said the league failed to honor the terms of the players contracts. Clinkscales said he was awarded a $400 check at the end of January but hadnt been paid since. Bastfield said he hasnt collected a single penny from the league, which owns all 12 franchises in Florida and Texas, during his entire time with the team. The players said they began to question the leagues financial solvency when scheduling changes forced the Breeze to play the Destin-based Emerald Coast Knights four games in a row. A road trip to Fort Lauderdale was canceled, and a home game against the Heartland Eagles was wiped off the schedule.
Thats when we knew it was getting shady, Clinkscales said. We thought they must be trying to save money.
The players situation has worsened considerably since the teams last game, a 99-71 win over Emerald Coast on March 9. Bastfield said the duplex in which he lives with Clinkscales, Johnny Mayhane (6'5''-G/F-86, college: Tulane), Keith Darden (6'10''-F-85, college: Livingstone), Terry McKenzie and Arnette Hollis (6'5''-G/F-88) was leased in head coach Ty Fishers name. Fisher was named the lone defendant in a civil suit filed in county court Wednesday by Carrie Routt, a broker associate with Keller Williams Success Realty in Panama City Beach, seeking to evict the players. The beds the players have been using were rented from Rent-A-Center, and Clinkscales and Bastfield said the league hasnt kept up on payments on either the duplex or the furniture. The players were notified by Bay County Sheriffs Office deputies on Friday that they have one week to vacate the house.
Rent-A-Center was here today backing a truck into the driveway, Bastfield said. We were looking at them (through the peephole in the front door), and we live in fear were going to come back home to no beds in the house. We didnt leave the house for four days. We dont open the door.
The players said Fisher, who arrived in Panama City with his wife and two children to coach the team after living in Europe for more than a decade, has been victimized during this ordeal, too. Clinkscales said Fisher, who agreed to speak only off the record, has been trying to take care of his players while tending to his own needs and expenses at home.
Lets clear the air right now, Clinkscales said. No one on the team has a problem with Ty Fisher. Hes waiting on his money like were waiting on our money. He has two kids. He came to the U.S. after 12 years in Europe, and he came over and has got bills, too. Hes got two kids in school. Hes got a family to feed.
The players have received considerable support from a local resident not at all affiliated with the team, Vonda Gainer. Known as the Qpon Qween for her work helping area families use coupons to live within their budgets, Gainer met Clinkscales and other Breeze players at a Dollar Tree store in Lynn Haven. The players were there after amassing about $10 to buy essential items for their house at the store when they encountered Gainer.
The league was still going on, and we talked about possible exposure and getting more fans in the seats, Clinkscales said of his first conversation with Gainer. She was getting people ready to come to the games. Then this happened. One night we were at Winn Dixie (after the league had fallen apart), and it just so happened that she was there. We had pooled some money together for pizza that night so wed have something to eat.
She recognized me and said hello. We talked about what happened, and I told her, As of now, the league is at a standstill. No one is getting paid. She didnt know us from a hole in the wall or a can of paint. She brought us food that same night. A boatload of food.
Said Gainer: They were talking about struggling to get by, and I thought I have got to do something for these kids. I gave them my car to use. I dont do s--- like that. I cook for them every night. I got them toiletries, deodorant, detergent. They dont have a washing machine here. Ive bought them everything but clothes.
Clinkscales said the players have been scrounging up change to wash their clothes.
Every time we go out to eat, we keep the change, he said. We wash all the clothes in one load. All the clothes. We dont care what color it is. If its yellow, pink, whatever, it all goes in one load. No two loads.
One thing about this team, Bastfield added, is that if the individuals didnt like each other, it wouldve made it tough to live.
The players have been forced to live out of pocket with no income. Clinkscales paid to compete in an exposure camp in Orlando, and the Breeze selected him in an ensuing draft. He said the league was supposed to cover his living expenses, but he said he received the one $400 check two months ago. Bastfield, who hasnt collected a penny from the ABL, noted that the league never followed through on a promise to give players $15 to feed themselves on road trips. The players were asked to promote the team in the community, but the season began so quickly after their arrival in Bay County seven or eight days, they said that there was little time to get the word out. The team used The Ram House at Rutherford High School to host games, and the team failed to draw more than 100 fans to any game.
They were supposed to do all of that before they put a team in any city, Clinkscales said of promotional efforts. Plus, I didnt see any of that in my contract.
Efforts to reach ABL CEO Steve Haney through the league office were unsuccessful. Haney is a former legal representative for NBA Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Dominique Wilkins. Former NBA player and Georgia Tech standout Kenny Anderson is listed as the ABLs director of player development. Tony Parker Sr., whose son is an All-Star point guard with the San Antonio Spurs, is the leagues executive vice president and director of international affairs.
Clinkscales and Bastfield said they do not expect the league to meet its financial obligations to the players and coaches, and they said every ABL team in Florida is going through the same ordeal. They are planning to move elsewhere in the coming weeks, Clinkscales back to New York City and Bastfield somewhere on the East Coast. If they are evicted, Gainer volunteered to let them live with her.
If we didnt have Miss Vonda, Bastfield said, we probably would be gone by now.
Gainer bristled at the suggestion she didnt have an obligation to help the players.
I have to be involved, she said. Do you know why? Because I have children. There is no way I can know that good people, due to no fault of their own other than the love of basketball, can go hungry. No way I can do that.
Bastfield is a 23-year-old shooting guard who played collegiately at Morgan State University. He may have several years left in the sport if hes able to find a new home. Clinkscales, however, may be nearing the end of his career. He played in the NBA Developmental League with the Erie BayHawks and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from 2008-10, but the market is shrinking for a 28-year-old point guard.
After an experience like this, it makes you think that maybe its over, Clinkscales said. But thats what I went to school for. I got my degree (from DePaul University), and Ill put it to use. I want to be a coach.

Courtesy of News Herald

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