Jason Pershing looking out for the little guys

Ogden column: Solon coach as passion for basketball

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In the words of greats Cheech and Chong, Jason Pershing has a “basketball jones.”

I’m not sure if he sleeps with a basketball under his pillow at night — like “Tyrone Shoelaces” in the old song (Google it, it’s funny) — but Pershing has a passion that runs deep for the game.

A former standout high school player at Cedar Rapids Washington, he played for Ellsworth and Mount Mercy in college. He’s coached at Coe, Washington and Mount Vernon. He just finished his third year as the head boys’ basketball coach at Solon.

So what does the 37-year-old Pershing do over the summer break? Basketball, of course.

Pershing’s summer basketball endeavor has a new name and a new home, but the league is “super solid” as it enters its fifth season.

“I thought I was just, kind of, getting it started” five years ago, he said. “Now, it’s kind of been my baby.”

The league was fashioned after the Prime Time League in North Liberty, where players from the University of Iowa and Northern Iowa work on their games and showcase their talent in a relaxed environment.

Pershing played in the PTL, but said opportunities — and playing time — were limited for players from the smaller colleges. So he started the College Summer League to give these lesser-known players the same experience, holding games at Mount Mercy’s Hennessey Recreation Center.

The league has grown from four teams to six and this summer will feature 30 or 40 players from “seven to 10 different colleges,” including Coe, Cornell, Mount Mercy, Kirkwood and, he adds, “hopefully Upper Iowa.”

He said the newly named Antioch Summer League is better than a pickup game or an open gym.

“Each game means a lot,” he said. “They play a ton of minutes.”

Pershing notes the league would not be successful without the support of area college coaches and sponsors, not to mention the officials who make the games, well, games.

Game will be played at a new gym built at Antioch Christian Church in Marion (Hennessey is under renovation). The gym has plenty of bleacher space for fans and is “beautiful,” said Pershing, who attends the church.

“It’s a great place.”

Registration is open through May 26 and there is a $35 fee to help pay for jerseys, scorekeepers and officials. Games will be played Mondays and Thursdays, starting June 5. The playoffs begin June 29 and the championship game is July 10,

Each team has nine players and a player-coach. Pershing will fill that latter role on one team.

Basketball, after all, is his life.

“Still trying to keep it going,” he said with a laugh. “My goal is to play in (the league) until I’m 40.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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