Reporting Bobby Bancroft
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the conclusion of every college basketball season, rabid fan bases bid a fond farewell to their favorite graduating seniors, usually to never see or hear from them again as most players continue their trade overseas, not the NBA.
It’s an annual tradition that doesn’t sit well with Michael Wranovics, an admitted college basketball enthusiast who has long supported the Stanford Cardinal.
It never made sense to him that these former college stars could drift so quickly into anonymity just because they continued their successful basketball careers in other countries.
“You see that reaction these players get on senior night,” said Wranovics.
“Well why is it that it’s the last time you get to see them? These are not only very talent players, but players that fans get attached to over the years.”
In an effort to solve this problem, Wranovics, who has a background in sports marketing, has been working for the past four years on creating an east coast based summer basketball league with teams comprised of players from local colleges. The idea is that those fan bases will already have a built in interest in the players from their days in college.
All of that hard work is about to pay off as The-BALL (Basketball Alumni Legends League) will officially launch on Saturday, August 4th at George Washington’s Smith Center at 4 PM.
A team comprised of former stars from the D.C. area will host their counter parts from Philadelphia in a two-game Showcase intended to give fans a sneak peak at what is to come over the next few years.
The two squads will conclude their I-95 rivalry on Sunday night at St. Joseph’s at 8 PM. Both games will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet.
So why start in D.C.?
Well the answer was a no brainer for The-BALL CEO and Founder Michael Wranovics.
“The whole idea here is to concentrate on a small part of the country on the east coast with these two showcase games,” explained Wranovics.
“I’ve always felt that it’s something that needed to be done in a true college basketball hotbed and I definitely consider the D.C. area as a major hot bed. As soon as you get Georgetown and Maryland, you have something. Then when you consider George Mason who has been to the Final Four and George Washington, it becomes special.”
Unable to play against each other during their college careers thanks to athletic departments that can’t seem to agree on a venue to renew their series among a host of other issues, former stars from Georgetown (Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Jason Clark, and Henry Sims) and Maryland (John Gilchrist, James Gist, and D.J. Strawberry) are scheduled to make up the bulk of an eleven man roster.
Jai Lewis, Florian Campbell, and Will Thomas, all key members of George Mason’s magical run to the 2006 Final Four, will join recent GW graduate Tony Taylor as well as Chris Monroe, the Colonials all-time leading scorer, to round out the District team.
The Philadelphia squad will feature players from four members from the famous Big Five – La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova – as well as Drexel.
With a basketball savvy staff that includes former NBA-D League president Phil Evans as well as former CBA commissioner Gary Hunter, Wranovics is planning on taking things slow in order to achieve league stability, something he knows won’t be easy.
“We are doing this one step at a time, Wranovics said.
“It’s a complicated endeavor to build a sports league. One of the mistakes we are avoiding is rushing it out there.”
The future planning of the league is very specific over the next two summers. In 2013 there will be four teams playing a shortened schedule. By the following summer the goal is to have between eight and 12 teams located in college markets between Charlotte and Syracuse playing complete 24-game regular seasons.
“There’s really an amazing amount of talent out there,” Wranovics said about finding enough players to fill so many teams.
He also understands The-BALL’s place in the basketball landscape.
“We aren’t in competition with the NBA,” Wranovics acknowledged.
“Most American players playing overseas are on one year contracts so this league will potentially help those players showcase their talents. We would love to be an avenue for player exposure in the future.”
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