A new summer basketball league intended primarily for Washington-area college players will begin June 18, with games played at Georgetown's McDonough Arena.
The James (Jabbo) Kenner Summer League, named after a Washington community leader, is expected to feature several players each from Georgetown, Howard, American and the District of Columbia. It will compete against the Urban Coalition, in which some of the best college and pro players have played in the last decade.
"Our initial reason for putting this new league together is that many of the area's college players weren't getting much playing time in the Urban Coalition," said Steve Martin, a former Georgetown player who is the treasurer of the Kenner organization, a nonprofit community service group.
"It's easy for the guys like (Maryland's) Adrian Branch and (UDC's) Earl Jones to get playing time," Martin said. "But what about the sixth, seventh and eighth men on the local teams? We wanted to find a place for them. This way, we can have those players and the superstars, too. The more we keep it in the concept of college ball, the more it will help the kids."
Other players eligible to play are those who attend out-of-the-area schools but live within a 100-mile radius of Washington, such as Dereck Whittenburg, Sidney Lowe and Thurl Bailey of North Carolina State; Virginia's Othell Wilson and Kenton Edelin; Tom Sluby and Cecil Rucker of Notre Dame and Sylvester Charles of Wake Forest.
Most of Georgetown's players, including Patrick Ewing, are likely to compete. Virginia's Ralph Sampson lives a few miles out of the NCAA's 100-mile restriction for participation in summer leagues, but an NCAA spokesman said the rules committee would consider making an exception if Sampson wants to play.
The league will consist of eight to 10 teams of perhaps 10 players each. As with the Urban Coalition, each team has a sponsor, usually a local business, that will pay the entry fee.
Many of the area's college players, Jones and teammate Michael Britt among them, will continue to play in the 11-year-old Urban Coalition league, which will play its games at Dunbar High School. All Maryland players still will compete in the Urban Coalition.
Players can compete in only one league, in compliance with NCAA rules. No teammates during the regular season can compete on the same summer team, although a school's incoming freshmen and graduated seniors may.
The Kenner League will have 20-minute halves, no shot clock and no three-point field goals. The highly successful Urban Coalition plays by NBA rules, including a 24-second clock.
Martin and James Wiggins, who runs the Urban Coalition, believe there are enough good players in the area to keep both leagues competitive and interesting.
"D.C. isn't too small for three or four summer leagues," Martin said.
"I really don't know much about the new league," Wiggins said, "but I don't see any problem with competition between the two. In past years, we haven't had enough (teams) for all the people who have expressed interest in playing."
Some coaches and players are unsure which league they will participate in.
"I didn't think that the Urban Coalition helped all of my kids last year," Howard Coach A.B. Williamson said. "Players who may need developing often don't get enough playing time in the Coalition league.
"Gus and Ray Williams came in one year and took 70 shots in a game. It was great for the fans, I guess, but one of my better players didn't take a single shot. I'm not sure if the Coalition is a vehicle to help the middle-range kids improve their games in the summer. This new league seems well conceived and may be a little better for the average college player."
Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell is sticking with the Urban Coalition "because the competition is much tougher."
The Adidas company will sponsor the Metropolitan Women's Basketball League at UDC's Van Ness facility, beginning on June 11. The 10-team league will concentrate on developing high school players.