When he first came to Baltimore six years ago, Towson University basketball coach Pat Kennedy figured there was a college summer league for his players to join similar to those in Philadelphia, New York and Washington.
Kennedy was shocked to learn that there was nothing that closely resembled the Baker, Rucker or Kenner leagues that had become institutions in their respective cities. Kennedy made inquiries about starting one but never got far.
"Summer leagues were pretty consistent, and, especially in this hotbed of basketball, I was surprised," Kennedy said last week. "What's happened around here is that guys would go downtown and play in The Dome [connected to Madison Square Recreation Center] or at [Carmelo Anthony's] place or would just go to Towson or Loyola or Morgan in an unofficial capacity and play" pickup.
Kennedy and other local coaches were pleased to learn that the first NCAA-sanctioned summer league will be held this month at Loyola. The six-team, six-night league will begin Tuesday at Reitz Arena and will have six tripleheader sessions, culminating in a championship game July 15.
Admission is free to the public.
"It's organized, it will be competitive, you will have [NCAA-level] officials to maintain the rules and regulations of the game as opposed to pickup games. Anytime you have players with similar ability, it's always good," Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said.
The league was organized by Thayne Gould, a marketing manager at T. Rowe Price, after a conversation with Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos in April. Gould acknowledged that it would have been better to start the process earlier, but with the help of local corporate sponsors, including Abacus Corp., Tark's Grill, Mad River Bar & Grille and Field House, he was able to pull it off.
"This is not a one-year deal," Gould said. "We have more than 50 players signed up, and we hope to grow by word of mouth. With the amount of talent in Baltimore, I think this kind of league will eventually be a big success."
Five local Division I teams -- Loyola, Towson, Morgan, Coppin State and UMBC -- will be represented along with teams with players from St. Mary's and Johns Hopkins. Among the local players who had signed up as of last week were Loyola's Jamal Barney (Southwestern) and Shane Walker, Towson's Cephas Oglesby, Coppin's Vince Goldsberry and Morgan's Kevin Thompson (Walbrook).
Gould said he still hoped to get some Maryland players who had not signed up for the Kenner League at Georgetown.
Barney has heard from some of his old Baltimore friends who are playing Division I basketball -- including Kim English (Randallstown) of Missouri; Ricky Harris (Calvert Hall), formerly of Massachusetts; and Chester Frazier (Lake Clifton), formerly of Illinois -- that they plan on playing.
"I think it's good to have something like this in the summertime," said Barney, a rising Greyhounds senior. "The competition at pickup games is not always there, but you know the competition at this will be on the same high level."
Since it is considered an open league, professional players are also allowed to play with a $50 entrance fee. In accordance with NCAA rules, no more than two returning players from the same college team are allowed to be on the same summer-league team.
"It really works for us to have some of the guys on the same team and getting used to playing with quality players. It's always a plus," said Bozeman, whose players competed in the Kenner League the previous three years.
Games this week will be held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The same schedule will be followed next week.
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