That's life for Marathon Basketball, which many people—the ones who have heard of it at all—still refer to as Marathon Oil, recalling the oil company that used to sponsor the team. Marathon is typical of the clubs that barnstorm around the country during November and December, providing the opposition in exhibition tune-ups for college teams.
When the exhibition season is over, Marathon spends most of the next several months playing in various European tournaments, a schedule that can't be any more grueling than the one that the team plays in the U.S. This week Marathon will complete a stretch of 25 games in 26 days, a continuous road trip taking the team as far west as Tempe, Ariz., and as far east as Kingston, R.I. Many of those miles have been traveled in two trusty nine-passenger station wagons. Coach Glenn Sergent estimates that the team will have traveled 8,000 miles by car in November alone.
Last week the coach and his players left Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day and drove to New Jersey for a game against Rutgers on Friday night. From there they drove to Philadelphia to play St. Joseph's on Saturday, then went on to Baltimore to play Loyola on Monday. Still to come were games against Rhode Island on Tuesday and Massachusetts on Wednesday.
"The travel gets pretty tough sometimes," says forward Todd May, a former Mr. Basketball in Kentucky who hopes that playing for Marathon will help him catch on with a European club. "We fix up the cars pretty nice, so the two-or three-hour trips aren't so bad. It's those five-and six-hour ones that'll get you."
The team is largely made up of ex-college players, like May, who are looking for a spot in Europe or, for the real dreamers, the NBA—anywhere that will pay better than the modest per diem and expenses they get with Marathon. The roster changes constantly—31 players have appeared on the roster in one month—but May, Earl Kelley ( Connecticut) and John Flowers ( UNLV) are among the big-name former collegians who have recently played for Marathon. The team loses more often than it wins, but Marathon is not an easy touch. It has already beaten Virginia Tech, Tennessee and Clemson this season.
"It's not real glamorous, and you never have a home game," Sergent says. "Most of the guys play for us because they just can't get basketball out of their blood."
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