It's Sunday morning. While many people either are sleeping late or at church services, Quinton Burton is playing basketball.
The 23-year-old former Hammond High School star catches a pass and lays one infor two points in a county recreation league game.
Burton, who in 1987 took his game to Providence College on an athletic scholarship, went on to play professional ball in Switzerland. There, he led his team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 40 pointsand 15 rebounds, and was third in assists, with eight per game.
Now the 6-foot-5, 200-pound athlete is back home nursing a knee he injured in a game last April and hoping to return to Switzerland. The injury occurred as Burton's one-year contract with the Swiss league expired. He says he'll only go back if he can play as well as he did a year ago.
"It's about 75 percent rehabilitated," Burton says of hisinjury, a torn patella tendon. He was on crutches for five months, and since June has undergone physical therapy to strengthen the tendon. His doctors expect him to make a full recovery, he adds, but it is not clear how long that will take. He hopes to return before the season starts in August.
Burton was unsure about basketball after graduating from Providence, where he earned a degree in American studies.
But when a college teammate was asked for names of players who might like to play pro ball in Switzerland, Burton's name came up.
"I was a little burnt out with basketball by the end of college and didn't know if I still wanted to play, but I thought it would be a valuable experience to learn about another part of the world," Burton said.
"Two days later the deal was finalized." That was in August 1990. A week later Burton was in Switzerland working out with the team. The Swiss A League teams each are allowed to have two American players.
He had no trouble adapting to the new culture.
"People accept you just because you're an American, and they want to learn all they can about America," Burton says. "Most people there speak English, but I learned French and spoke it a lot to make them feel more comfortable."
Burton would not disclose his salary as a first-year player, but said established stars there earn salaries in the $70,000 to $100,000 range. Most of his living expenses were paid by the team.
Since returning to Howard County last April, he has been working as asales clerk in a kitchen supply store. If his basketball prospects dim, he says, he would like to open a retail business.
For now, he continues to work out daily in local gyms and plays in two county recleague games a week. The league teams are filled mostly with talented former college players like Burton.
The action gets pretty physical and intense. Players dive for loose balls, don't hesitate to pickfor one another, and frequently slam their bodies into one another to block out on rebounds.
The quality of play is unexpectedly good.This is some serious basketball. Players even jaw at the two paid officials.
"Q," as Burton's teammates call him, heats up in the second half and runs the floor with more abandon. He slashes down the lane for a layup -- or soars high above the rim for a rebound that he yanks down with a loud grunt. His knee looks 100 percent sound now.
He swishes a couple of three-pointers, keys a few fast breaks and blocks a couple of shots as his team rallies and goes up, 68-61.
But after he draws a technical foul, the team stalls, eventually losing 86-81, even though he finishes with 26 points.
He's not happy aboutlosing -- even at this level.