WALKER — The AAU basketball circuit dominates the summer months, with thousands of high school kids traveling to play in basketball tournaments all across the country.
But AAU can get expensive, and not everybody is willing to make the commitment to play on those teams.
Ray Vasser may have found a solution.
Earlier this summer, Vasser founded the Eastern Iowa High School Showcase Summer League, giving area kids a chance to play in a competitive basketball league during the high school offseason. The league currently has four teams, and plays twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Walker.
Tuesday, the league held its semifinals, providing what Vasser and others said was some very competitive basketball.
“It’s a different mix of kids (in this league),” Anthony Carfanga, one of the coaches, said. “Everybody is playing hard and getting an opportunity, and it’s pretty competitive. Every game comes down close. I don’t think there’s been any real true blowouts. Guys are playing hard against each other. Even though they’re friends, you see them going at it on the court. That’s nice to see.”
Players from all over Eastern Iowa have signed up to play in this league, with some hailing from Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Iowa City West, Marion, Cedar Rapids Xavier and many others.
Tyler Andrews, who will be a sophomore this fall at Linn-Mar, said his decision to join the league was simple. He just wanted to play.
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“(I just wanted) to get more exposure during the summer, since Linn-Mar doesn’t play in the summer,” Andrews said.
All high schools are allowed to do during the offseason is hold open gyms and compete in a small number of summer tournaments, if they can field a team.
Getting a chance to play against other competition in the summer can be hard to come by. However, the showcase leage has several members committed to play college basketball, which Carfanga said is an added benefit to the league. And, with no other true league for high schoolers in the area, the showcase league fills a void.
“I think that the appeal is they can play against some decent competition. You have the Prime Time League for the older kids, the college guys or the top prospects in the area. Here, it’s a chance for some guys that are maybe on the fringe to get looked at … they get to have some opportunity to play (against each other).”
At the end of the day, Vasser said, the league is just for fun and to keep kids playing basketball before the high school season starts again.
And that, Linn-Mar senior Jogue Kinsaka said, is exactly what the players get out of the league.
“I feel like this is getting us ready for the next competition,” Kinsaka said. “When we play against each other, it’s pretty good. “
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