After helping with 3-on-3 tourney, Haislip talks of his life in the pros

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Visiting with professional basketball player Marcus Haislip of Lewisburg, right, is Corey Allen of Nashville who came to Jones Park for the 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Allen says he played for UT "a long time ago."

Professional basketball player Marcus Haislip is back in his hometown of Lewisburg considering options on where he'll play next. Most recently, he's played for a team in China.

"I've definitely seen some tough cities," Haislip said during a Saturday interview while seated in his black Ford pickup truck parked at Jones Park where the annual 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament was about to begin.

Haislip donated $3,500 to provide prize money for the annual tournament that's been a point of pride for people from his neighborhood on and around Jones Circle where he grew up. His truck was parked within 100 paces of where his parents, Odie and Janie Haislip, raised their only child, next to that of his cousins, Jason and Rodney Haislip, sons of Terry and Pam Haislip.

"In Turkey," where Marcus Deshon Haislip played for a team based for Ülkerspor in the 2005-'06 season, he said, "it's like you're either rich or you're poor."

Told of a young businesswoman commenting about Atlanta, "Too bad it's surrounded by Georgia," Haislip replied, "I'll take rural Georgia over Turkey."

In August 2006, Haislip joined the Turkish Basketball League, Efes Pilsen. During his time in Istanbul, he saw no revolution or counterinsurgency, but his life was not like his time with the NBA Milwaukee Bucks or the Indiana Pacers during the 2004-'05 season.

"I stayed right in my apartment, went to and from the gym. I didn't venture out, but to do my time and get home."

Told that the word "time" made the experience sound like prison, he commented, "Being in Europe like that; it is definitely the closest I'll ever get to prison... People think it would be glamorous (playing basketball overseas) but it's not as glamorous as you think. It's a tough adjustment being away from everything. It definitely makes you appreciate what you've got."

What he's got here is respect and appreciation, as evidenced by the thanks he received from players and organizers. Jerrie Henry is the Jones Park supervisor for Lewisburg's Parks and Recreation Department.

"Due to the publicity surrounding the sizeable donation ... for this event, the fans got to witness some of the most talented athletes in the state," Henry said.

She and her father, former City Councilman Willie J. Mitchell, alternately credit each other with starting the tournament.

"One such notable was University of Tennessee basketball alumnus Corey Allen, a friend of Marcus' who played on the Nashville team" that came to Lewisburg for the tournament," Henry said. "Other such notables were alumni of Vanderbilt, Belmont, the University of Alabama, Middle Tennessee State University and Columbia State Community College."

The 3-on-3 tournament is played on a court that was originally built as a tennis court, Henry said. Mitchell said arrangements had been made to move to the indoor court at Lewisburg's Recreation Center if rain stopped play too long. His daughter had large sheets of plastic to cover the asphalt court at Jones Park if showers were brief. The old Jones High School gym is now used as a storage place.

Corey Allen's team placed second on Saturday. He brought several players from Nashville and described his role as "player-coach."

He, too, has played overseas, saying on Saturday that "It was fun" in Europe. "I wish I didn't have to get old."

That morning, while seated at the steering wheel of his truck, Haislip, 30, recalled, "I've been at this since I was 14 or 15; 15 for sure." He also played on a court behind the Pizza Hut restaurant on Ellington Parkway.

"You don't have to be from New York or California to be an all-American anything," Mitchell said Saturday to emphasize why the 3-on-3 tournament is important in Lewisburg.

Haislip was clearly at ease Saturday.

"This is definitely the place I grew up; in the hot days, running around in the sun."

Mitchell chimed in support for such a childhood.

"This young man and his parents; you can't find no better people. What he learned, he learned in Lewisburg; not the big city."

It's part of the international basketball player.

"I always try to make a point of carrying myself with respect for others and know that people are watching."

Born Dec. 22, 1980, in Lewisburg, Haislip attended Marshall County High School, and rose to prominence in college basketball with UT in 1999-2002.

After playing for the Bucks and Pacers, Haislip played in Turkey for Ülkerspor and then Efes Pilsen. In 2007, he signed with Unicaja Málaga, a Spanish club and then the San Antonio Spurs. Subsequently he's been with the Greek Basketball League team Panathinaikos and then the Spanish team Caja Laboral.

In January, he signed with the Guangdong Southern Tigers in China.

"I've had leading roles for teams, but I definitely don't want to be giving myself a star label. It's definitely (rewarding in terms of salary and) allowed me to pay the bills. It's been a blessing."

As for the next season, "I'll be playing somewhere. I don't know where yet. There are options. It will come down to me having to make a decision, but one thing that's for certain, it will be overseas."