At the Little Rock Razorback club meeting, I was able to ask Razorbacks assistant coaches Matt Zimmerman and T.J. Cleveland about the idea I floated in this week’s Sync column for an NCAA-sanctioned summer basketball event involving high school, college and pro players. There is currently no summer league (or summer tournament) in which current college players are allowed to play, although Scotty Thurman said that Little Rock’s Dunbar Recreational Center used to have such a league.
My essential point in the piece was that the fame of college players, especially Razorbacks (even Razorback recruits) can be leveraged for a good cause: a fundraiser game.
Central Arkansas doesn’t have enough NBA players living in the area to support a multi-month league with the talent of a Bluff City Classic. Instead, when it comes to drumming up public interest, focus should be given to the players at elite Division I colleges and the high school players likely to be joining them. If you made an effort to see David Rivers (Nebraska), A.J. Walton (Baylor), or Jamal Jones (Ole Miss) star at local high schools, you likely still want to see them play. Especially if they take the court with some of the area’s best current prep players — guys like Archie Goodwin (Kentucky, Arkansas recruit), I.J. Ready (Nebraska signee) and Bobby Portis and Dederick Lee (Razorbacks signees).
By charging admission to a gym the size of North Little Rock High or Hall High, thousands of dollars could be raised for something like obesity prevention or diabetes awareness. Moreover, a non-profit association affiliated with those causes could give halftime speeches and pass out literature along with game tickets. Finally, the players responsible for drawing such large crowds would have satisfaction in knowing they’re essentially volunteering their time and abilities to help others.
Razorback assistants Matt Zimmerman and T.J. Cleveland said they’re for anything that helps their players sharpen skills against good competition within NCAA rules – fundraiser tournament included. Zimmerman, a former Missouri assistant coach, said some of his Mizzou players played in a summer league with pros in Kansas City, and that helped them tremendously.
The major problem boils down to college players’ availability if they were allowed to play in such an event in central Arkansas. Even if the event was only a 2-day tournament, coordinating everybody’s schedule could be an issue. Especially since two summer terms of classes mean a lot of the Razorback players have two weeks away from campus during the summer.
Still, I have to believe if you’re a true baller, you make this happen. Especially if it means getting the chance to play in the same game – in front of thousands of fans – with a guy like Joe Johnson, Sonny Weems or whoever the hot-shot high schooler of the moment is.