Amateur baseball is moving into the postseason and fall sports practices are just around the corner, but basketball is drawing an unusual share of attention in the county.
More than ever, both youths and adults have been battling it out on the asphalt during the "off" months, refining their skills in a variety of solid summer programs.
With the recent conclusion of the Lake Waterford High School League, the Annapolis Men's Unlimited League, the granddaddy all county summer basketball leagues, is about to take center stage with its popular postseason tournament.
The Annapolis Youth Athletic Association recently completed its regular-season games in the 17- and 14-and-under boys leagues, plus the inaugural girls 16-and-under league. The 12-and-under boys league will conclude its season with a one-game playoff next week.
The North County Men's League will conclude its regular season next Wednesday, with playoffs to start the following Wednesday, while the Severn Athletic Club will begin its playoffs later next week.
Both the Annapolis Men's and AYAA youth leagues are enjoying continued success under the leadership of Commissioner Leslie Stanton. Stanton says he is elated with the continued progress of both leagues and the number of participants involved.
"This has been the worst year as far as rain-outs are concerned, but aside from that, everything has been running very smoothly," he said. "It's been a very busy summer. There's a game going on just about every day of the week. It's really good to see the youth out there on the court.
"Not only are a lot of Annapolis youths involved, but teams from Severna Park, Fort Meade and South County are involved, too. It's helped our league grow from one league with seven teams to four leagues and 36 teams.
"County basketball as a whole has grown tremendously, which is good because we're still behind counties like Prince George's. In my day, you played football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. Now, summer basketball is it, and I think it'll really help county basketball overall."
After Tuesday night's action, defending Unlimited champion Harris and Sons is still showing last year's form, sporting a West Division and league-best record of 9-0. Pro Jersey is 5-3, followed by Parole (4-6), Selly's (3-5) and Gunthers (1-9).
In the East, Hunts claims the top spot with a 7-1 record, with last year's runner-up F-Force following a close second at 7-2. Henry's is in the middle of the pack at 5-4, while Cape Photo Express and the Seahawks occupy the bottom half of the division with records of 4-6 and 1-8, respectively.
"It looks like Harris and Sons are still the team to beat. They're looking very strong right now," said Stanton. "They beat both F-Force and Pro-Jersey. I think Pro-Jersey is really missing [former European professional Dan] Ruland.
"Hunts has really emerged. They have a nice combination of size and youth. They've got guys like Carlton Thacker, Jimmy John [Little] and Eric Brown, who's a real good leaper."
Thacker, a 7-footer, played at Division II Millersville (Pa.) University after playing at Annapolis High, while Little starred at Severna Park High during the mid-1980s.
At Glen Burnie's Sawmill Park, parity is evident among the North County Men's League's seven teams. With one game left on Wednesday night, Aquahart Liquors (7-2) maintained a one-game lead over both CBY and the Flames (both 6-3). Pumphrey is fourth with a 4-4 mark, while Champion Liquors, Meade Village and Dorsey are 3-5, 3-6 and 1-6, respectively.
"The talent of this league is just getting better and better," said North County commissioner Brewer "Pop" Gray. "Anyone can be beaten on any given night. Not too long ago, Meade Village rTC upset the first-place team, Aquahart, so that shows you how competitive this league is."
Following the league championship game (scheduled for Aug. 22, complete with a halftime slam-dunk contest), Gray is hoping to collaborate with the Annapolis Men's League during the last week of the month to stage a round-robin tournament involving teams from both leagues.
"Paul Young, who owns Pro-Jersey and helped provide trophies for our league, is interested in playing a tournament down at Cypress Creek in Severna Park under the lights. I think that would be a heck of tournament," Gray said.