Minor League Sports

Opportuity, passion drive Cedar Rapids pro basketball dreams

Ogden column: Why do we do the things we do?

CEDAR RAPIDS — As we move from one year to the next, let’s contemplate a simple question.

Why?

Why do we do the things we do? Why do you do the things you do?

Why do high school swimmers dive into a pool at 5 a.m.? Why do football players put their minds and bodies at risk each practice, each game, each play?

Why do two Cedar Rapids drivers keep making left turns on the NASCAR circuit when their equipment and financial backing leaves them at a disadvantage? Why do high school and college-age hockey players leave home and move to Cedar Rapids — or Dubuque or Waterloo — to play for no pay?

Sometimes the answers are simple. Sometimes they are complicated.

Sometimes they are both.

Why do two local businessmen think Cedar Rapids needs a professional basketball team?

Let’s start there today as we begin this journey into “why?”

Ray Vasser, a well-known basketball figure in Cedar Rapids, has joined forces with Karl Cassell, the former president and CEO of Horizons, to form the Cedar Rapids Royals. The Royals will begin play in the World Club Basketball Association in June.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Royals held tryouts at Coe College, looking for talent for a team that will begin play in June.

Why?

“The community is in need of basketball at a high level,” said the 49-year-old Vasser, the founder and CEO of Defender Ministry Inc, a youth sports outreach. Vasser has been running basketball camps and coaching middle school and high school players for more than 18 years.

Vasser is well-aware of Cedar Rapids’ professional basketball past — a little success that ultimately turned into failure.

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“We’re going to do this the right way,” he said. “We’re starting small so we can have sustainability ... it’s not a million dollar investment.”

Cassell, 45, said the why is simple to him.

“We’re giving young people the opportunity to play the game of basketball,” he said.

Whoever makes the Royals’ 12-man roster will not get rich. Vasser said each of the eight United States teams in the 16-team international league have a budget around $45,000 to $50,000. Players will get “a couple hundred bucks a game,” he said.

Playing basketball for the Royals will not be a full-time job.

“Opportunity,” 23-year-old Trey Sampson said while taking a break during Sunday’s tryout, reiterating Cassell’s “why.”

Sampson was one of a dozen or so players who paid $100 to play a little basketball this weekend for Vasser, Cassell, Coach Kevin Sanders and a few others.

“I always wanted to play professional basketball,” said Sampson, a former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep who played collegiately at DMACC, Missouri Western and Minnesota State-Mankato.

“Why not?”

That was another theme inside Kohawk Arena on Sunday.

Another was the simplest why of all.

“It’s a beautiful game,” Cassell said. “I love the game.”

So, again, why not?

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

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