Chase Tries To Capitalize On Chance

Brian Chase
At 25, Brian Chase is making his dream come true as a member of his hometown team's summer leauge squad. (Preston Keres - The Post)
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2007

There were nights when Brian Chase came home to his family's cramped, two-bedroom apartment in the Trinidad section of Northeast and saw nothing but darkness, when he couldn't shower or flush the toilet because the water was cut off. His mother was sometimes gone for several days pursuing her next fix. And, if he hadn't borrowed money from friends, Chase may not have been able to buy food for himself and his younger siblings.

"It was a terrible, terrible situation," Chase, a point guard for the Washington Wizards' summer league team, said earlier this week about his upbringing. "I wouldn't want my worst enemy -- if I had one -- to be in that situation."

Chase, 25, has survived his share of trials, which is why he is relishing his situation as a member of the Wizards. He has played sparingly through the first two games in Las Vegas, scoring just five points in 31 minutes, but Chase won't complain. "I'm on cloud nine right now," he said. "This is something only a few people get an opportunity to do -- especially from my neighborhood."

Chase said he remembers taking the bus each day to a summer job as a teenager, right past the construction area that would eventually become Verizon Center, never imagining that he would be playing in any capacity -- summer league or regular season -- for his hometown team.

It seemed inconceivable. And, if not for one fateful night when Chase was 13, it may have never happened at all.

Chase was hanging out with friends when rivals from another neighborhood came seeking revenge for an earlier altercation in which Chase wasn't involved. Chase had his back turned and heard gunshots. A bullet hit him in the leg and lodged in his thigh. The bullet remains today as a reminder. When he left the hospital, Chase told his mother, Catreeda Lloyd, that the shooting was "a sign."

After being shot, he knew he had to change his life. Chase said he wasn't involved in any illegal activities, but if he had continued hanging out with those who were, it would have happened eventually. "I was pretty much becoming a product of my environment. I didn't need to be ripping and running around acting like a knucklehead."

He committed himself to basketball, ditching the corner to shoot hoops at Anacostia Park or Trinidad Recreational Center.

Inspired by her son's turnaround, Lloyd soon made a heartfelt, tearful pledge that she would clean up her life, stop abusing alcohol and drugs, and enter a detoxification program.

"A lot of things we were faced with at that time, it gets me kind of choked up," Lloyd said in a telephone interview, adding that she hasn't had a drink in 12 years. "It was a rough time in our life and he had a willingness to persevere. He wanted better. He wanted more. I've made a lot of progress in my life. I told him his [life] better be better."

NBA Summer League rosters are filled with drifters who have bounced around nearly every no-name minor league, hoping for their shot. Chase is no different. He was first-team All-Met as a senior at Dunbar and twice led the Big East Conference in three-point accuracy at Virginia Tech. He also had a brief stint with the Utah Jazz and others with teams in the NBA Development League, United States Basketball League, Continental Basketball Association and American Basketball Association.

Generously listed at 5 feet 9, Chase compensates with speed and a sweet jump shot.

He took a break from basketball after his career ended at Virginia Tech in 2003. Chase received no offers to play basketball in the United States and turned down opportunities to play abroad because of his then-infant daughter, Laila, now 3. The snub gave him an opportunity to return to school and finish his degree in human services. "My whole life, I've pretty much been the underdog -- written off a little bit," Chase said. "Mainly because of my size, I never got the recognition I wanted."

On the local street ball circuit, though, Chase's exploits are well known to those who follow the action of the Kenner League at Georgetown's McDonough Gym or the Goodman League at the Barry Farms outdoor courts. Chase has won five titles and was named most valuable player of the Goodman League last season.

Miles Rawls, longtime commissioner of the Goodman League, gave Chase the nickname "The Fast and the Furious."

"He's got a big rep in the city," Rawls said. "Once you come down there and get a name, you're good to go. He's one of my favorite guys in this town."

Chase was teammates last summer on a Barry Farms team that featured Wizards Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Andray Blatche, among others. When he received an invitation to training camp with the Jazz last year, Chase approached Arenas and said, "I want whatever you got."

Arenas invited Chase to work out with him every day, and Chase was up for the challenge. "What better way to get ready for anything than with an all-star, a guy you know for a fact stays in the gym every day, who some people would call crazy with the way he works out?" Chase said. "He got me ready for Utah. That sent me over the top, that I know I can do it on this level."

Chase was a member of the Jazz for the first seven games last season but never played. After he was released, he spent the rest of the season with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBDL.

"I've been through a lot and I always tell myself, 'God's got something really special in store for me.' It's happening right now," Chase said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company