Basketball lives on: Summer league to open tonight


So the end of the excitement of the recent National Basketball Association championships and Wednesday's NBA draft leaves you basketball fanatics high and dry?

Not to worry, it's time for the Annapolis Summer Men's Basketball League to get under way.

Operating in its 14th season out of the city's Truxton Park recreational complex, the popular league is scheduled to open the 1992 session with a full slate of five games this evening.

Under the guidance of Commissioner Leslie Stanton, the league has enjoyed a resurgence boosted by exciting, competitive play and sizable fan interest.

"Over the last few summers we've seen a gradual increase in attendance, and the league has grown so much in popularity that teams from outside of the [Annapolis] area have been trying to get in," said Stanton.

"I'd like to get those teams in the league, but with the time constraints and all, I don't think it'll be feasible. Since we're so close to a residential area, we have to start the last game at around 9:30, and we can't go past 10:30 or 11 o'clock."

While immediate expansion past the Annapolis area won't happen any time soon, Stanton seems content with the league's community"-type atmosphere.

"I think it's nice that we can field so many good teams from this area," said Stanton. "Not only do you have communities such as Robinwood, Spa Road and Annapolis Gardens, but you have area high schools like Annapolis High and South River competing, and then you have some players from Anne Arundel Community College and the Naval Academy. I think it's a good balance of local talent."

As expected, defending champion Harris and Sons (13-2 last year) will have a hard time defending its crown, especially with such talent-laden squads as 1991 runner-up F-Force (12-3), Pro-Jersey (11-4), and Henry's (formerly Annapolis Gardens).

But with players such as Londell Owens, Jeff Brown (who recently signed with West Virginia's Bluefield State College), Frank Johnson, Marvin Brown, and David Kirby back from last year's squad, it'll take more than just luck for the titlists to fall.

One team figure who won't be back is head coach Norm Johnson, who decided to take the year off and hand over the reigns to Lody Mackell, who retired from playing due to back problems. Mackell was the league's Most Valuable Player last year.

F-Force will feature North Idaho Junior College and ex-Annapolis High athlete Tracey "Go-Go" Evans. Evans, a 6-foot guard who stood out on the gridiron as a defensive back for the Panthers in the mid-80s, averaged 13 points, 2.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game in his freshman year. The Division I Cardinals finished 24-7, 12-6 in the Scenic West Athletic Conference.

Also available will be Freddie Butler, a former redshirt at North Idaho now at Northern Montana College, along with sharp-shooting guard Rodney Rice, a former University of Richmond guard. The 1990 champs also have Dennis Edwards, who recently completed his freshman season at Alvin Community College in Texas. The shifty 6-5 swingman was the county's leading scorer at Annapolis during the 1990-1991 season. Veteran Jody Beck will give the F-Force a boost with his scoring and rebounding.

Despite the expected absence of ex-European professional player Dan Ruland, Pro-Jersey also seems to have a lineup well-stocked with height and talent.

Ex-South River High and Loyola College cager Kevin Carter (6-5), brother Brett Carter, ex-UMBC star Rick Moreland (6-7), incoming St. Francis (Pa.) freshman and two-time Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year Rob Wooster (6-5), and Towson State forward and former Broadneck High star Matt Campbell (6-6) are standouts.

Campbell, entering his junior year at Towson, averaged around five points and three rebounds per game in a reserve role.

Stanton also expects Parole (formerly Henry's Liquors, 6-6 last year), Hunt's Movers (8-4), Henry's Liquors (5-7 last season as Annapolis Gardens) and Cape Photo Express (formerly PJ's Pub, 7-6) to field competitive squads.

Other entrants include the Seahawks (4-10, made up of some South River High players), Selly's (3-10) and Gunther's (0-13), a team predominantly made up of Annapolis High players.

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