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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Tucson Summer Pro League, anything but normal”

    How odd it is – in an unusually balmy Tucson gym on Father’s Day afternoon, spectators fill three sets of bandstands.

    Songs like Soulja Boy’s “”Turn My Swag On”” blast from the scorer’s table, not only during timeouts and halftime, but during play. Arizona men’s basketball player Garland Judkins of C&J Tire and Wheel – yes, that is the team name – is matched against Wildcat teammate Brendon Lavender of Flooring Systems.

    The Wildcat guards clearly capture most of the fans’ attention in the hour-long game, but what’s the story behind the other eight players on the floor?

    Congregated in the Northwest Center, a community gym at Mansfield Park, Tucson Summer Pro League players have a unique chance to compete with peers of differing skill levels, ages and backgrounds.

    “”Most of the pro-ams operate differently, where a bunch of guys get together and enter their whole team,”” said TSPL founder and former UA player Corey Williams. “”This is different.

    “”I like the fact that we can have a high school guy, some mens’ league guys, guys from the city (and) college guys all on the same team,”” Williams added. “”It kind of makes the games interesting.””

    Interesting. Different. Only in Tucson.

    One of the older players in the TSPL, Danny Hunnicutt, 30, plays with both those just graduated from high school and other veterans like himself, not to mention the pre-game additions of Judkins and Lavender. It’s Father’s Day and Hunnicutt celebrated – in front of his young daughter – by watching the Division I basketball players seemingly run wind-sprints around him.

    “”It’s good to come out here and play, but it’s bad when you get shown up like that – they’re good players,”” he said. “”They’re in shape like nobody’s business. I’m an old man trying to keep up.

    “”It’s been a good Father’s Day so far,”” added Hunnicutt after the game.

    Despite the youthfulness of his peers, Hunnicutt held his own, connecting from long-range to keep his Flooring Systems team in the lead and his three-point accuracy for the season at 50 percent. And in his third year playing in the TSPL, Hunnicutt’s experience gives him an advantage over his younger peers, some of whom play in awe while failing to forget that they share the same court with college athletes.

    “”It’s intimidating a little bit,”” guard Phillip Elkins, 20, said. “”You don’t want to get dunked on or anything.””

    Though they have a 10-year age difference, Elkins and Hunnicutt reached TSPL rosters the same route. Williams put the majority of the TSPL players through a short series of workouts to prove that, at the very least, they wouldn’t embarrass themselves. The event organizers use two sets of tryouts to get a better look at lesser known players, Williams said.

    “”We bring them all down for a workout and that way we can pick the best ones out of them,”” Williams said. “”We have a little bit of quality control for the guys who are playing.””

    For spectators, the Arizona players’ tomahawk dunking and three-point launching over local amateurs only adds to an already fascinating atmosphere – fascinating, because nobody in the gym appears to fit. College ballers play 30-year-old fathers and former ballers fill the role of coach or referee.

    Eugene Edgerson, a UA alumnus and Harlem Globetrotter, traded his signature afro hairstyle for cornrows, and likewise, switched his jersey for zebra stripes and a whistle. Williams traded in his own jersey as well, sometimes helping to coach teams all the while keeping the event running smoothly.

    In the end, though, one simple passion brings this diverse group of people together – basketball.

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