It's standing room only inside the sweltering UA House—formerly and more affectionately known as the Melo Center—as spectators try to catch a glimpse of Terry Hosley, the 6-foot, 160-pound, no-frills point guard who feverishly rubs his hands together and blows into them as if he was standing near a campfire in the dead of winter. The Warriors, his team in the budding Baltimore-based Brunson League, is about to take the court 5 o'clock game against Sam's Ballers.
Hosley, 31, has made a name for himself in Baltimore and the surrounding locales over the years by putting on a show with his scoring ability and ball-handling wizardry. This isn't your highly commercialized NBA, where technicals are handed out at the slightest expression of disapproval—this is the less diluted game that mirrors pick-up basketball in cities across the country. Children run on the floor during timeouts. Referees talk trash back to the crowd and coaches. The players come down and exchange isolation plays as the audience swells onto the court at times—a game within the game—to prove who's the better player. Hosley's suited for this style of play—raw, unfettered, and in sharp contrast to the rigid, high-Division I college ball and professional conformity.
For Hosley, basketball began at Dewees Park in the Mid-Govans community of northeast Baltimore.
"I grew up on Beaumont Avenue, on the other side of the park," Hosley says, pointing beyond the Dewees City Farms Garden as he relaxes on a metal bench, the 4 o'clock sun bouncing off his back, the sound of children dribbling a rubber basketball accompanying his rough-textured baritone voice. "This was our playground, our basketball court that we grew up playing on. This is where I learned how to play."
Hosley learned the game watching his father, cousins, and uncles play. As his father and uncles cycled in and out of the prison system in his youth, the basketball court became not only the 94-foot rectangular surface where he would sculpt his game, but also the bit and chisel that helped him mature. He hoped to carry on the legacy his father left as a basketball player in Baltimore: "I had to learn a lot of stuff on my own at the time. A lot of the other guys around had respect for my father and my uncles and cousins. They guided me through while I was trying to get in where I fit in."
Word travels fast in Baltimore City and high school basketball here reigns supreme. Carving out a name for yourself playing on the varsity level is the quickest way to etch your name in the city's basketball lore. But Hosley's mother moved to Baltimore County, and Parkville High School didn't lend itself to basketball relevance in the city.
"I was trying to go to Lake Clifton and things ain't work out," he says. "My last two years I was trying to go to Southwestern, and I didn't get an address quick enough so I was at Parkville all four years."
Being ducked off in the county meant his playing didn't impress many in the city. Basketball in the city is marked by its physicality that requires more mental mettle, whereas county ball is looked at as a fluid non-contact game of whining and coddling between players and referees.
"I realized that in this town you get less credit when you play for a county school. I made all-metro and all-star [games] and all of that. I kind of got looked at like 'you supposed to do that, you playing in the county,'" he says.
But Hosley spent his summers playing AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) for teams in East Baltimore to fine-tune his game. "I played for Oliver my first two years. I played with Bucky Lee, and then I played with Cecil." Playing alongside the likes of Jack McClinton, Troy Miles, Dontaye Draper, and Tyriek "Toot" Johnson made Hosley play harder and tougher, giving him an edge over his opponents in the county. After high school, he played at Essex Community College. While he was at Essex, Hosley lost his mother to an aneurysm, and the emotional toll it took sidelined him indefinitely.
He stopped play for four years while he mourned his mother and made his return to basketball in 2008 at the Maryland Bible College & Seminary. Shortly after getting enough game film, Hosley began his semi-professional career in 2010, playing one season with the Maryland Marvels. He went on to play three seasons with Severn's Bay Area Shuckers in the American Professional Basketball League, garnering 3rd-team and 2nd-team All-APBL selections, and a 1st-team honorable mention in his final season with the team.
While Hosley shined in his time with the Shuckers, Baltimoreans didn't travel to Anne Arundel County much to watch him play. Hosley's semi-pro career mirrored his high school experience at Parkville: He was a stand-out where being a stand-out didn't mean as much. So Hosley decided to meet people where they were, supplementing his semi-professional play by participating in pro-am's throughout Baltimore.
"It was the neighborhood leagues I was basically destroying," he says of immersing himself in the Baltimore City basketball circuit. "They seen me in all the neighborhood things, in all the hood events so like the Greenmount league, the Landsdowne leagues, the Saint Frances leagues, the Northern leagues, and just the outside leagues. Anything that was citywide, that's when I started getting my name and my respect."
Each game for Hosley became a revisionist basketball epistolary to cynics who still felt he had to atone for the years he spent playing in the county. His buzz grew, and after several 40 and 50-point outings, he started to get invited to play in other places. He earned his name "New Jack City" playing in the legendary Goodman League at Barry Farms court in Washington, D.C. While he was making a name for himself in Baltimore and beyond, the opportunity he wanted for years came in the form of the Baltimore Hawks of the ABA playing their home games at Saint Frances Academy in the heart of East Baltimore.
In the 2014-2015 season with the Baltimore Hawks, he averaged 35.6 points per game and 7.4 assists achieving All-ABA 3rd-team honors while performing in front of a true home crowd—just minutes away from his childhood court nestled between York Road and The Alameda. Now at 31 years old, Hosley has gone from questionable to proven out in the county and in the city, and is now averaging 21 points in two seasons with the nearby DMV Warriors.
The Brunson League game was one of those games where he didn't heat up, only tallying seven points on 3-for-7 shooting as his team lost by seven points. Still, Hosley got the crowd involved by showing off his crafty and expressive ball-handling prowess against bigger and perhaps stronger defenders—freezing them momentarily before getting to any spot he wanted to on the floor—a mix of skill and the willpower he plays with each time he laces up his red Nike Kobe A.D.'s.
"I don't get the backlash as much because they know me now and they seen me on the regular . . . 50's, 60's, 40's [points] and they seen it, but before I had to always perform," he says of the rare bad game. "I feel better now because the city knows, 'Yeah, he's one of the best in the city.'"
Sure, Hosley had a bad night, but it is one he could afford, after years of earning the reputation as one of the top hoopers in the city.