Former Wildcat Corey Williams set for 14th season of Tucson Summer Pro League
Founder and League Director of the Tucson Summer Pro League Corey Williams (Left), poses for a picture with former Arizona Wildcat Eugene Edgerson (Right) in 2005. This is the 14th year for the event.
The Tucson Summer Pro League is set to kick off its 14th season this weekend and shows no signs of slowing down. This is in large part due to the work Founder and League Director Corey Williams puts in throughout the year to continue the community support for the annual event.
Williams, a former Arizona men’s basketball player, has seen the league through from a small startup that gave athletes a chance to compete at a higher level than at the recreation center, to a solid opportunity for athletes of all levels to enhance their skills and play the game of basketball.
“Its had its ups and downs, its been huge in terms of community support and our sponsors,” Williams said. “The kids league that we started about four summers ago has really taken off and added a new dimension to it, so its just been great. It is one of the things I look forward to every year, seeing the kids, seeing a lot of the same guys we’ve seen over the years and being in the gym and watching them play ball. It’s been a joy to do this for Tucson.”
One of the unique differences that Williams has implemented is the addition of a kids league, which isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill game setting. The first rule in this league is that there are no club teams allowed. Kids show up at an open run and get evaluated with one rule in mind, first come, first serve. As many kids as it takes to fill the rosters is what Williams will allow, no matter what playing experience they have. Teams are distributed evenly in terms of talent, but every kid gets the opportunity to go out and play for the love of the game. It is a reflection of how Williams grew up, when club teams weren’t as prominent as they are now and your best chance to play ball was at the local park or playground.
It is an old school mentality, but one that re-introduces the reason why kids play sports in the first place, because they’re fun.
Williams has had former UA players compete in his summer leagues before, especially during the Lute Olson era, when players would be here for the summer and have nowhere to go for quality competition. Players today are only allowed to participate in one summer league according to NCAA rules, and unfortunately for local Tucsonans, that has resulted in players missing out on the local event in favor of leagues in cities where the competition is higher. One of those athletes being Allonzo Trier, who was expected to participate this year but will head back to his hometown Seattle and play in the ProAm instead.
“We have about 6-10 high school guys, a few guys from Pima Community College and we’re even supposed to have some JUCO guys from Phoenix that will come down,” Williams said. “It’s a younger group, but we are excited to have them. I mean basketball is basketball and we really want to make sure these guys have a good league.”
To put on this event and make it standout, Williams knows it isn’t about the product on the court, it is also about the presentation of the event which has led him to implement an internship program for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Kids from the tribe learn sports journalism in a fast paced environment. They take part in photojournalism, social media, multimedia creation and story production all in a seven week period designed to give them a leg up if they should pursuit that as an option in the future.
“We have an internship of 20 kids that are hand picked from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe,” Williams said. “For a lot of these kids it is their first summer job. The goal is to get them acclimated to work and responsibility and working as a team, professionalism. We really want them to have a great experience.”
All games are held on Saturdays and Sundays at the Gregory School located at 3231 N. Craycroft Rd. League play begins June 17 with the kids league going from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. and the adult league going from 2-5 p.m.
For more information on teams and schedules you can visit TucsonSPL.com.
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