Pro-Am deepening community reach
The S.J.G. Greater N.C. Pro-Am summer basketball league is deepening its reach into the community, both organizers and Durham leaders said.
The sixth season of the summer league starts on June 27 and is expected to run through Aug. 8.
Joining the NBA and college players on the court this time will be both high school and junior college players, something forbidden in previous years due to NCAA rules, Pro-Am spokesman Erroll Reese said.
The summer league launched at N.C. Central University when it was a Division II school. NCCU's move toward Divison I created a recruiting advantage for the school, according to the NCAA, meaning only college and NBA players could participate in the Pro-Am, Reese said.
NCCU became a Division I school in 2011.
The Pro-Am's new partnership with Durham Public Schools, however, will get high school players back on the floor during S.J.G. summer-league games, taking place at Durham School of the Arts, 400 N. Duke Street.
DSA will serve as the hub from which a whole lot of community good will proceed, according to organizers and community leaders.
“Downtown is going to be buzzing,” Reese said. “Every Tuesday and Thursday night, there's something going on in downtown Durham.”
Kevin Dick, director of the Durham Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said the summer-league's move to DSA would result in Pro-Am attendees patronizing nearby downtown businesses.
“It requires so little of the community, but it gives back so much,” Dick said about the summer league.
The Pro-Am actually is a good workforce-development initiative, because studies show that young people do better in school when they're involved with athletics and mentoring programs, Dick said.
“And we know that when they do better in school, they become more employable,” Dick said. “Then they can contribute more to society in terms of their ability to pay taxes, in terms of their ability to buy and support the local economy.”
High school students can tryout for pro-am roster spots on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Riverside High School, 3218 Rose of Sharon Road. There is a $50 registration fee.
More information about the summer league is at ncproam.com.
The summer league fits with the strategic plan of DPS Superintendent Eric Becoats, who is all about producing well-rounded students, DPS athletics director Larry McDonald said. DPS students' exposure to some of the players from both the NBA and colleges that they see on TV could have a big impact, McDonald said.
Elite talent won't be the only way high school kids can land on summer-league rosters, Pro-Am co-founder Chuck Jones said. Youngsters with pretty solid basketball skills plus a history of community service, for example, could find themselves playing alongside the pros and collegians, Jones said.
Each Pro-Am team likely will have one or two high school players on it, Jones said. None of the teams will include female players, he said.
League organizers would like to have women’s and girls’ teams, but the money isn't in the budget to make that happen, Jones said.
“Every time you see that ball go up into the air, that's $600,” Jones said, referring to what it currently takes to cover costs that include paying for game officials and security personnel.
If the summer league gets more sponsors, then female teams could be a possibility, Jones said.
Area businessman Steve Toler has been a sponsor of the summer league since its inception, recalling the time when he was sitting in the stands with a kid who eventually went on the court and played.
That kid was John Wall, the Raleigh product who played a year of college ball at Kentucky before becoming the NBA's No. 1 overall pick of the Washington Wizards in 2010.
Toler also remembered the time when NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse was participating in one of the Pro-Am's wheelchair basketball games and sprang from his chair and slam dunked, drawing a technical foul.
Stackhouse, along with Donyell Bryant, is a league co-founder. Those two and Jones grew up together in Kinston, where they vowed to one day have a community impact. That's why they started the summer league.
Pro-Am organizers are donating new basketball goals to DSA and also assisting with the installation of a new floor there. DSA's basketball court has the original floor from days long ago when it was Durham High School, and gym floors aren't cheap, McDonald said.
Organizers of the Pro-Am expressed gratitude toward those at NCCU who helped put the summer league on the map.