Lucky break for pastor’s son
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2015 - 10:00am

CHANGSHA – Alex Legion wasn’t Jordan coach Rajko Toroman’s first choice as the team’s naturalized player at the FIBA Asia Championships here starting today. The top pick was Jay Youngblood but the former Kent State point guard wasn’t available as his team United Byblos Amchit was in the playoffs of the Lebanese league.

With Youngblood tied up, Toroman was asked if he could try out Legion. As it turned out, Legion was precisely the kind of player whom Toroman wanted for Jordan. Legion made his debut with the Jordan team at the West Asia Basketball Association (WABA) Championships last month and Toroman liked what he saw.

“Youngblood is more of a defensive player,” said Toroman. “He’s not too confident with his offense. But Alex is at least two times better than Youngblood in offense. His pull-up medium range jumper, fadeaway and step-back jumper are about 80 percent accurate. He doesn’t shoot the three a lot but if he has to, he will. Alex is definitely a Euroleague player with NBA skills. I want him to learn to move without the ball. Usually, a player with a high skill level likes to make his move with the ball in his hands. But in our team, we have Sam (Daghlas) who has excellent court vision and is a passer. He’ll get Alex the ball in our system.”

Legion, 26, said he got lucky that Youngblood couldn’t take the Jordan job. Youngblood wound up as Lebanon’s naturalized player with NBA veteran Loren Woods injured. “I just signed to play with Al Jaysh Army in the Qatar league but the season won’t start until after the FIBA Asia Championships and my coach Dragoslav Milovanovic is coach Rajko’s good friend and also a Serbian,” said Legion. “Coach Dragoslav asked coach Rajko to give me a chance. I think playing for a national team as a naturalized player is a great opportunity for anyone. There’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders but that’s fine. I don’t mind taking on a big role. With Jordan, we’ve got Sam who sets things up. If coach Rajko wants me to score, I’ll score. I’ll do whatever the team wants me to do.”

Legion said his mother Annette Williams was a huge influence in his upbringing. His mother is a Christian pastor with the Hour of the Lord ministry in Detroit. His father Rodney, a landscaper, and mother divorced in 1997. Legion is the youngest of three and the only professional athlete in the family.

Legion played his senior year of high school basketball at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia where his close friend and NBA guard Brandon Jennings, Carmelo Anthony, Ty Lawson and Jerry Stackhouse starred. Then, he moved to Kentucky for six games to Illinois for 33 games and to Florida International University for 10. “I was one of six guys who left Kentucky and I ended up at Florida with coach Isiah Thomas who gave me the confidence to play my game,” he said. “I didn’t go to an NBA camp because of the lockout so I played in Canada before going to Hungary, Italy and Lebanon. I like playing for Jordan. I like my teammates. I remember when I was in college, I went to a camp in China and played against Jordan. Can you believe that several years later, I’m now playing for Jordan and I still remember the guys whom I met in China?”

Before LeBron James returned to Cleveland, Legion had a tryout with the Cavs and recalled playing with Kyrie Irving. At the FIBA Asia Championships, Legion said he knows little of the other naturalized players except for Youngblood and the Philippines’ Andray Blatche whom he met at a camp in high school.

A bachelor with no strings attached, Legion said he’s open to playing in the PBA as a 6-5 import in the Governors Cup. “The Qatar season ends in April and I could play in the PBA after that,” he said.  “I know how Filipinos love the game. I saw how the fans respect coach Rajko.”

Toroman said he would recommend Legion to any PBA team and in the Governors Cup, he could also suggest a Jordanian to play as an Asian import with the American. “It was Asi (Taulava) who called me up to ask for an Asian import for the last Governors Cup,” said Toroman. “I thought of Michel Madanly who worked out very well for NLEX in the PBA. Maybe, for next Governors Cup, Alex and one of his Jordanian teammates could be a pair for a team.”      

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