Small College Sports

Summer basketball league has deep roots

Community: It has gone from pickup games on blacktop to a new church gym

Jason Pershing, watching the action from the Class 3A state quarterfinals in 2016, not only is the boys’ basketball coach at Solon but also the director of the College Summer League, which hosts small college players from around the state. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jason Pershing, watching the action from the Class 3A state quarterfinals in 2016, not only is the boys’ basketball coach at Solon but also the director of the College Summer League, which hosts small college players from around the state. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It started in the 1990s at the Jane Boyd Community House.

You could find a pickup basketball game almost every night of the week. A local crop of collegiate athletes, former athletes, aspiring high school ballers and other local talents would show up to play.

These games moved across the street to the outdoor courts at Metro High School beginning late spring and running through the humid Iowa summers. Each summer, the crop of talented Eastern Iowa players would grow. Guys would come home from local colleges and join the competitive basketball games, playing on the hard and unforgiving blacktop. Fouls were rarely called and, if you lost, the wait for your next game could be up to 30 minutes long.

The blacktop eventually lost its luster and the competitive games worked their way into the downtown YMCA indoor courts.

The area collegiate talent continued to trickle in for the summer and congregate on the middle court. Claiming “next” so they could get their chance at controlling as king of the court.

The local collegiate basketball players now congregate at the College Summer League at the Antioch Christian Church in Marion.

Just like anything else, this league has grown, expanded, moved locations and become an intricate commodity to the basketball community in Cedar Rapids. The College Summer League began playing games at Coe College before moving to Mount Mercy University. A lack of air conditioning in humid Iowa summers lead to slippery surfaces. The league now is housed and partnered with the Antioch Christian Church.

The league has current and former players from 20 different college basketball programs. There are the obvious ones such as Coe, Cornell, Kirkwood and Mount Mercy. But, players from Augsburg in Minneapolis, Briar Cliff, Southeastern Community College, Ellsworth, Iowa Central and Milwaukee populate the highly competitive league.

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This summer, the league begins with a tryout on June 3, and games begin June 4 and continues evert Monday and Thursday until the championship game on July. The league is in its seventh year and hosts more than 60 current and former players.

There is no admission for games.

l Jason Pershing is the founder and director of the College Summer League and the boys’ basketball coach at Solon High School

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