Trying to slow down Jamal Crawford is a withering challenge for even the most seasoned NBA perimeter defenders.
The 17-year NBA veteran is, after all, one of the most dangerous pure scorers in the league – equally likely to drain a three-pointer in your face as make you look silly with a sick dribble move on his way to the rim.
That reality is at the forefront of Nav Bains and Riley Braich’s minds this week. The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball standouts have been invited to participate in the second annual Battle at the Border, a pro-am game hosted by Ball Don’t Stop at UFV’s Envision Athletic Centre this Saturday, July 22 (6 p.m. tip-off).
Bains and Braich will suit up for the Vancouver All-Stars against a Seattle squad led by Crawford, the three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year award winner who recently signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves as a free agent.
Taking the court against NBA players is both an incredible opportunity and an intimidating task, and Braich, the Cascades’ rising sophomore point guard, might even find himself matched up against Crawford on occasion. If such a situation materializes, he’ll have a very specific mantra running through his mind.
“Don’t get crossed,” Braich said with a chuckle, alluding to Crawford’s famed ankle-breaking crossover dribble. “I mean, I’m not going to be scared or anything – I’ll take the challenge. But don’t get crossed, that’s the only thing.”
The rest of the Seattle roster isn’t confirmed yet, but other NBA talent potentially making the trip northward, per reports in the Abbotsford News and DailyHive.com, include three-time NBA slam dunk champ Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes (Milwaukee Bucks), and Avery Bradley (Detroit Pistons).
Last year’s inaugural Battle at the Border featuring Crawford was held at the Langley Events Centre, and drew a sellout crowd. Fans were treated to a surprise appearance by NHL star P.K. Subban (Nashville Predators).
Organizers are projecting another sellout at the 2017 edition of the event – courtside seats are already sold out, and general admission tickets are going fast. Tickets can be purchased online. Halftime festivities will feature an exhibition game between Abbotsford middle-school all-stars, and Cascades women’s basketball assistant coach Avneet Brar will coach the Vancouver All-Stars.
Bains, a 6’6” forward, said that going up against NBA talent is a great way to gear up for his fifth and final season of university basketball. Much of his off-season has been spent in the weight room refining his body; he’s now in the process of transitioning his training to focus more on his on-court skills.
“It’ll be an awesome experience,” Bains predicted, looking ahead to Saturday. “It’ll be good to see where I’m at and where they’re at – obviously they’re NBA players, they’re on their own level, so to be able to compete with them is awesome.
“It’ll help me to get my reps up playing against good players. It’ll make me better.”
Playing in the game will be a major thrill on its own, but Braich is equally excited that it’s at the Envision Athletic Centre.
“It’s a big opportunity for myself and UFV, having this game here,” he said. “I think people will know more about UFV after this game.”