The other day we highlighted top summer leagues operating on both the West and East coasts. From New York’s EBC at Rucker to LA’s Drew League, basketball doesn’t stop for the summer—a time when NBA stars collide with the country’s top streetballers and college standouts.
The leagues from New York, LA, D.C. and San Francisco get the lion’s share of attention, but those aren’t the only cities where you can find great basketball this time of year. Keep reading for a list of destinations to plug into your GPS when you start getting basketball withdrawal.
Desert Reign ProCity Summer League, Las Vegas
Basketball may not be tops on your list if you head to Vegas this summer, but if you do make it over to Grant Sawyer Middle School (just a 15-minute drive from the Bellagio fountain) you’ll find a solid run.
You may be visiting from out of town, but most of the players (and fans) are locals. The league has featured its share of former UNLV standouts (like Anthony Marshall) and Las Vegas natives (like Pierre Jackson). So take a seat next to some diehard Rebels fans when the league tips off on June 18.
GHPA 2014 B-Ball Showcase, Waterbury, Conn.
Last year, the Greater Hartford Pro Am relocated from Hartford to Waterbury. But the league still feels like it belongs right in Storrs, home of the UConn Huskies. GHPA rosters of years past read like a who’s who of UConn greats: there’s A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, Jeremy Lamb, and Andre Drummond. And don’t forget Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier, the two point guards who led the Huskies on improbable title runs in 2011 and 2014.
The Waterbury location, though, offers some perks: the tiny gym at Crosby High School offers fans a chance to see the Huskies up close before the team returns to cavernous Gampel Pavilion. GHPA regular (and Providence grad) Ryan Gomes isn’t complaining either: he grew up in Waterbury. Play begins July 9.
The Chosen League, Philadelphia
It would be hard to find a better venue for summer hoops than Philadelphia’s Cherashore Playground. Under the bright lights on a fenced-in court along W. Olney Ave., some of Philly’s top high school players will compete in The Chosen League. This year’s talent includes University of Miami-commit Ja’Quan Newton (ESPN’s No. 12 point guard from the Class of 2014), as well as Lamar Stevens, a top-50 recruit with an offer from Villanova. The action gets underway June 20.
Chavis Summer Basketball League, Raleigh
The last time you heard of Raleigh’s Chavis League may have been for the wrong reasons. A decade ago Raymond Felton was suspended for UNC’s season opener for playing in a Chavis League game during the summer of 2004—a year the league wasn’t certified by the NCAA. It’s a dark spot for a league that’s been around since the ’70s and has hosted the likes of Rasheed Wallace and Vince Carter. This year, Chavis is one of just two in North Carolina certified by the NCAA (the other is in Charlotte), which should make Chavis, once again, a top draw for some of the state’s top college players. Play begins June 16.
Orlando Pro-Am, Orlando
LA’s Drew League has The Game. The Orlando Pro-Am may not have any rappers, but there have been past reports of an R. Kelly sighting. In all seriousness, though, the Orlando Pro-Am pulls in some of Florida’s top basketball talent.
In the past, the league has had the feel of a University of Florida reunion with former standouts Chandler Parsons and Nick Calathes sharing the court with current Gator Chris Walker. Other notable NBA players to show up at Orlando’s Downtown Recreation Center include Courtney Lee, Marquis Daniels, and Austin Rivers. And last but not least: Jason Williams, who still has ridiculous handle. This year’s games begin June 28.
Wallace Prather Pro-Am Summer League, Atlanta
You know it’s time for summer league hoops when you hear stories like this: Before a game at Atlanta’s Wallace Prather Pro-Am in the summer of 2011, then-76ers guard Lou Williams reportedly told his defender he was going for 60. He missed his mark…by just 3 points.
Rosel Fann Recreation Center may be small, but plenty of big names (Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, Iman Shumpert) have showed up there. See who stops by this year when the league gets underway July 8.
Knox Indy Pro-Am, Indianapolis
The Knox Indy Pro-Am doesn’t want to be your typical summer league. Nicknames and flashy moves aren’t the point. “Our league is more than just typical ‘streetball summer league,’” founder Carlos Knox said back in 2011. “Guys come here to stay in shape, compete and become better players.” It makes sense—the league evolved naturally out of training sessions that Knox—a former standout at IUPUI—hosted. “We went from the training process to guys wanting really to get competition against good athletes,” Knox said.
That focus on development might explain why local NBA talent keeps showing up to the gym on IUPUI’s campus. This year, Victor Oladipo, Chris Copeland, and Donald Sloan are expected to suit up. Play begins July 12.
Chicago’s summer basketball roots go deep. Back in the ’80s, thousands of fans packed the gym at Chicago State University, temperatures topping 100 degrees. “Sweat,” the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith wrote back in the summer of ’85. “We’re not talking perspiration here, but Niagaras of the stuff.”
The draw? One of Chicago’s new stars—a guy named Michael Jordan. When Jordan showed up at Chicago State’s gym he wasn’t just coming to please the crowd. He wanted a serious run. And when it wasn’t up to snuff he handled it himself, once calling on league organizers to phone in Chicago-native Isiah Thomas.
Jordan and Thomas are gone, but summer hoops remains in Chicago. These days games are held at Whitney Young High School. Last year, Chi-League fans got to see Jabari Parker along with Will Bynum, Antoine Walker (yes, really), Thomas Robinson, and Shawn Marion. The 2014 season begins June 15.