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MX News Update 2024


Devin Funchess keeps a long-time promise and becomes the first NFL player to sign a professional basketball contract

Holloway is now a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team and is credited with being the catalyst for Funchess pursuing this goal.

“He is my biggest, I tell him you are my biggest motivator,” Funchess said. “He made me fall in love again with a sport that I thought had been completely abandoned.”

Ultimately, Funchess wants to return to the United States to play, but he tries to enjoy this time as he travels the world playing basketball, using it as time to research his third promise to his grandfather; to become a farmer someday. For Funchess, it means the opportunity to not only feed the world, but also to introduce one culture to another by starting an international etiquette course. The program would teach proper dining etiquette, sports etiquette, and adapting to different cultures.

“I’ve been able to immerse myself in some different countries and different cultures and I’ve tried to establish some of that now,” he explained. “I want to take advantage of the seasonal sports aspect and I am doing football, flag football and then the basketball route.

“Just setting the dining table properly, knowing where the forks and the knives and the bowl and the plates and the glasses and all the wine glasses go. And then just eating anywhere in the world is basically the way to someone’s heart. And if You can make a great meal, then you can adapt and immerse yourself in the culture.”

But merging his future farm with his burgeoning etiquette program is still a ways off. Because this basketball dream is far from over. Funchess has two dates circled in his calendar for September; one for open tryouts with the LA Clippers G league team, the Ontario Clippers, the other for open tryouts with the Charlotte Hornets G league team, the Greensboro Swarm. Hester has yet to see his grandson play professionally, as every match has been abroad, and it is something Funchess wants to rectify soon for the now 83-year-old.

“I tried so hard to get back to the state side and get (my grandfather) to one of those local towns so he could get out and see me play.”

Last summer, Funchess met with the general manager of the Ontario Clippers, who advised the convert to use this time to collect as much tape as possible. So that’s what he’s done, in countries all over the world. And while returning to the United States is the goal, the chance to work out in North Carolina once again brought a dreamy smile to Funchess’ face.

“I really want to play with the Swarm, just because it’s so much love,” he said. “When I look at my life and go back to my life, yes, Detroit (his hometown and the last NFL team to sign him) gave me a lot of love, a lot of love. But Charlotte opened so many doors for me,

“My whole family is from North Carolina, by the way. So it would just be great to get my family to the Games.”

However, the process isn’t as simple as walking through the door. Every summer, more than 100 players register for the open tryouts. The group is put through a series of quick practice exercises, while the general manager watches from a spot above. The prospects range in age, from college graduates to some in their early to mid-30s (Funchess will be 30 by the time tryouts take place).

The tryout is an arduous, phased process, stretching over several days and unfolding in a training camp, often resulting in more than three players making the final roster. In other words, it could be a longshot. But it’s a longshot worth pursuing.

As GM of the Swarm, Cole Teal sees hundreds of hopefuls every year, even outside of the open tryout. But the novelty of a converted NFL player can’t help but be a bit noticeable.

“With Devin, I think it’s super hard to make that transition,” Teal admitted, “but credit for pursuing his passion and really trying…I think playing in the pro league in Columbia is a It’s actually a lot like the real world in that regard: you have to build a resume and make sure an organization feels comfortable taking a risk.”

All Austin Rivers-inspired debates aside, moving from the NFL to basketball isn’t as simple as just deciding to do so. Teal monitors prospects endlessly and some of the most important skills are not necessarily transferable.

“On a football field as a wide receiver, you don’t dribble a basketball, you don’t shoot a basketball,” Teal explained. But the basics for any athlete, that’s what can be applied in both sports, and that’s what Teal sees in athletes like Funchess who are making the transition.

“The thing is, you have to have the physical aspect, you have to have size and length and you have to be athletic to be able to defend,” he continued. “So, like you slide your feet sideways and have the strength to hold your own defensively on switches. And so there’s a lot of value from that standpoint.”