September 18, 2014

Medina
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Kortovich ‘instructs’ professional players at famed Rucker Park

 

Rick Noland

The Gazette

Technically, 2000 Brunswick High graduate Brian Kortovich helped coach the Hillsong NYC team that recently won the famed Rucker Tournament in Harlem.

But with a starting lineup that included five current or former NBA players, including Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Kortovich is the first to admit he and coaching partner Carl Lentz weren’t exactly diagramming a ton of plays during the annual outdoor classic.

“When I say coach, let’s be real,” Kortovich said Thursday. “How can you tell K.D. to do anything? You make substitutions and you clap when they score. That’s all I really did.”

Hillsong NYC, a non-denominational church Kortovich attends, also had Golden State’s David Lee and Kent Bazemore, Toronto’s Landry Fields and former Duke and Chicago Bulls guard Jay Williams in its starting lineup.

The bench included Chris Smith, who has a non-guaranteed contract with the New York Knicks and is the younger brother of J.R. Smith, and Scott Machado, who played with Houston and Golden State last season.

Nicknamed “Smokin’ Aces,” the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Kortovich led the Rucker League in scoring in the summer of 2012 with a 35-point average, but was unable to play in the 2013 tournament, formally called the Entertainers Basketball Classic, because he fractured his right ankle and was in a walking boot.

“I was bummed I couldn’t play, but between me and (Lentz), with the players we got together because we had gotten to know them over the years, it was kind of surreal,” Kortovich said.

It is believed to be the first time five current or former NBA players started for one team in a game at Rucker Park, which drew more professionals this year because a wood floor was installed in place of the traditional pavement.

The park, named after Holcombe L. Rucker, who started a tournament in 1950, is located at the corner of 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. It has achieved legendary status after having the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Allen Iverson play on its court over the years.

Kortovich, who lives in Manhattan and owns Aces Basketball, which provides private instruction in the sport, is not only fully aware of all that history, but he’s made a bit of his own.

Having attended Holy Name before playing for Brunswick as a senior, he starred at Cuyahoga Community College for two years, then went to Division I Manhattan College, but suffered a knee injury and never played. He went on to play at NAIA Urbana University and suffered another knee injury, but continued to pursue opportunities in the game he loves.

Kortovich also has gotten brief looks from several NBA teams and even had a shoe designed for him by AND1.

“It’s just the love of the game,” he said. “It was a saving grace for me. Going through a tough childhood, I could always just go outside and shoot. Nothing else matters when you’re on the court. I just have a profound love of the game.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.