Nick Van Exel, Ron Harper and Tyrone Hill are just some of the former
NBA standouts who once played in the Deveroes Summer Basketball League. While that fact alone gives credibility to the Cincinnati-area summer
league, the event doesn’t live in the past when it comes to name
recognition and talent. Some of today’s brightest college players and
incoming recruits participate in the event which is one of note.
Nick Van Exel, Ron Harper and Tyrone Hill are just some of the former NBA standouts who once played in the Deveroes Summer Basketball League.
While that fact alone gives credibility to the Cincinnati-area summer league, the event doesn’t live in the past when it comes to name recognition and talent.
Some of today’s brightest college players, former college players and incoming recruits have participated in the league this summer at Woodward High School, off Interstate 75 near the legendary Cincinnati Gardens.
“It’s become part of the Cincinnati summer’s sports fabric,” Xavier University assistant coach Pat Kelsey said.
Kelsey, a Cincinnati Elder High School graduate who was a point guard at Xavier from 1996-98, played in the league as a player. One of his highlights of playing in the league was when he made a shot on Van Exel in the mid 1990s and drew a favorable response from the public-address announcer.
Now as a coach, Kelsey values the league as fine-tuner during the summer for college players who are anxious to get back on the floor for organized competition.
“(The players) look forward to getting out there,” Kelsey said. “It’s a good chance to compete and play in front of the Cincinnati fans.”
The summer league is in its 24th season in the Queen City. The league is registered with the NCAA and players must live or go to school within a 100-mile radius. Players from Xavier, Cincinnati, Miami University, Wright State and Dayton and others often are regular participants.
Other college players who were former area prep standouts are welcome as are recent high school graduates who are incoming recruits.
Players could also include former professional or college standouts that are older and take the league very seriously.
A unique blend of talent came earlier this summer when Middletown graduate Bill Edwards Jr., a Penn State signee, played in one game with his father, Bill Edwards Sr., a former Wright State standout who is a regular in the league each summer.
The younger Edwards is now on the Penn State campus getting for school and his upcoming season, but he said the ability to play with his father in Cincinnati won’t be forgotten.
“It was my first time playing in a competitive league with my father,” Edwards said. “It was a great experience; it was fun. I mean anytime you can play on a team with family – that always helps.”
Families and fans of all ages are often seen in the newer Woodward gymnasium, which was constructed a few years ago and is air-conditioned. Games are often scheduled once or twice during the week and often on the weekends from late June to early August.
Admission is free to fans, but donations are welcome. The league relies heavily on area sponsorship during the course of the summer.
“To me, it’s a great opportunity because during the season the players are pretty much untouchable,” league director Dennis Bettis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “You can’t get to know them as much, so this is a great opportunity for fans and most players are fan-friendly.”
While the Reds and Bengals games will always dominate, the city has a deep affection for college basketball. And with tough economic times so common, the league is a great bargain.
“It’s a fun league for our fans to follow our players up close in the summer,” University of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said. “I know our guys enjoy playing and the league has become a staple in the local basketball scene.”
Some of this year’s players include former Ohio prep standouts Yancy Gates (Cincinnati Withrow), Allen Roberts (Middletown), Orlando Williams (Cincinnati Princeton), Dennis Gagai (Ironton), Tony Rack (Archbishop Moeller), Dante Jackson (Greenfield McClain), Johnny Wolf (St. Xavier), Deonta Vaughn (Harmony), Danny McElroy (Cincinnati La Salle) and Kenny Frease (Massillon Perry) just to name a few.
“There some good players in there,” said Gagai, who plays at Northern Kentucky University, a Division II program. “Dante Jackson and Deonta Vaughn – everyone is so talented. It helps us out a lot because we don’t play against talent like that in the regular season.”
Last summer, fans saw former Xavier standout Derrick Brown (Chaminade-Julienne) impress the observers with his array of dunks and explosive offense. Brown was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats this June.
While current NBA players don’t generally make the return trip, there is always a chance a player could make a surprise appearance as a player or spectator.
The league has generally also taken on other storylines during the summer basketball scene. Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, who arrived on the national media stage with his legendary dunk over LeBron James this summer in Akron, has also played in the league this year.
Lance Stephenson, the nationally-renowned recruit from Brooklyn, N.Y., visited Woodward and signed autographs for fans as he made a college visit to the University of Cincinnati earlier this summer. Stephenson later committed to the Bearcats.
The regular-season concludes this weekend (July 18-19) with the postseason beginning Wednesday, July 22. The championship game is Saturday, Aug. 1.
The league also added a slam-dunk contest for the first time this year. The finals are expected to be Aug. 1.
IF YOU GO
More information at greatercincinnatisportsworld.com.
Directions from north: I-75 South to Paddock Road exit. Left onto Paddock Road then a left onto Seymour Avenue. Woodward will be on the right at the corner of Seymour Ave. and Reading Road.
Directions from south: I-75 North to the Paddock Road & Seymour Avenue exit. Right onto Paddock Road then a left onto Seymour Avenue. Woodward will be on the right at the corner of Seymour Ave. and Reading Road.