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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Mr. Everything

    Incoming Arizona freshman forward Jordan Hill goes up for a layup against Arizona junior transfer Beatrice Bofia Sunday in TPSL play. Although Bofia also hit a couple jumpers over Hill, he scored 25 points to her 8.
    Incoming Arizona freshman forward Jordan Hill goes up for a layup against Arizona junior transfer Beatrice Bofia Sunday in TPSL play. Although Bofia also hit a couple jumpers over Hill, he scored 25 points to her 8.

    A ball gets released from a pair of hands, arches over the nine other players on the court and settles squarely in the bottom of the net. Look quickly, because the player who shot it may not be in the game much longer.

    For Corey Williams, a former Wildcat under Lute Olson in the early ’90s and the tireless founder of the Tucson Summer Pro League, there is rarely a moment to waste.

    Whether he’s fielding phone calls on the bench, playing, coaching, or playing and coaching, Williams – who has enjoyed a successful career overseas, most recently in Belgium – fills a number of roles each weekend: athlete, PA announcer, league president (insert “”I’ll bet he pays the refs to get those calls”” joke here), and, oh yeah, mentor to current Wildcats.

    “”Here you go, here you go, right here. Fendi – “” Williams said as he directed Arizona sophomore forward Fendi Onobun to a point on the court, pacing the sidelines Çÿ la a certain Silver Fox before Onobun’s shot rimmed out, Williams wincing in mock pain, “” – ooooh.””

    When he wasn’t running up and down the sidelines, Williams, 32, was making sure everything was running smoothly on a Saturday at the TSPL.

    As he reflected on the league’s inception two summers ago, Williams recalled how he was bored with the usual workout routine that he and a few fellow Wildcat alumni would follow each summer in Tucson.

    “”We’d play pickup games here and there, sometimes three-on-three, sometimes four-on-four,”” he said, “”and I was kind of frustrated, because I wanted to get in some five-on-five.

    “”So I called (former Wildcats teammate) Joe Blair,”” he continued, “”and I said, ‘You know, I’m thinking about doing a little summer league where we can all play and stay in shape and get a consistent workout.'””

    After getting the NCAA’s approval, Williams’ original idea evolved into what is now the Tucson Summer Pro League, a summer basketball league where players of all sorts – be them seven-year veterans of the NBA, current Wildcats or simply high school players – can mingle on one centralized court.

    “”And that’s all (the league) really was,”” Williams said.

    Well, that is, until the inaugural opening night hit.

    “”We had 500 to 600 people at the game,”” he recalled with a small smile, “”and it was ridiculous.””

    But in a good way. The popularity of the league, now in its third season, has gradually increased with time. Perhaps it doesn’t hurt that many of the most athletic of Arizona’s alumni – from the newly-signed 50-million-dollar-man

    Jason Terry, a guard with the Dallas Mavericks, to the recently drafted guard Hassan Adams – have taken part in the league.

    One of those famous alumni, New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson, looked at the league with envious eyes.

    “”There’s so many things that I look at some of these young guys here that are able to do things that we didn’t have”” when he was a Wildcat, he said. “”The weight room that they have now, the Elite Camp where you get to play during the summer, the Summer Pro League – if I had all that during summer school, it wouldn’t have been bad, it makes Tucson summers a little bit nicer.””

    When told of Jefferson’s playful jealousy, Williams simply nodded and smiled: “”Exactly.””

    Though the league started with a bang – Williams still calls the first year his favorite: “”That first year, we had one night when (former Wildcats) Jason (Terry) and (guard) Damon (Stoudamire) both played, (forward) Luke (Walton) and Richard (Jefferson) played. It was a great night for basketball with some unbelievable match-ups”” – the league continues to be popular among current Wildcats.

    Former Wildcat Corey Williams coaches one of his many teams during Tucson Summer Pro League action Sunday. Williams also directs and plays in the league.
    Media Credit: Josh Fields

    In the league’s second week this season, sophomore forward Marcus Williams dropped a league-record 58 points, sophomore guard J.P. Prince broke the league’s assist record by handing out 16 and Onobun netted a cool 41 points.

    “”I just do it just to get a run in, just to play ball – you can never get enough ball,”” Onobun said when asked why he comes out to St. Gregory College Preparatory School, the league’s home this season. “”It’s an opportunity to work on your game and work on things that you need to be working on for the summer.

    “”The summer’s a big important time, I feel, where you need to improve yourself.””

    But, surely, as Jefferson pointed out, it helps to pass the time as well?

    “”No, not at all. I do it personally to get better,”” he said. “”There’s always good competition out here each week.””

    It’s a fact Kelvin Eafon, the league’s director of player personnel and scouting, who was a teammate of Williams’ from 1994-95, is proud of, ensuring that that competition level would be high after sorting through a 110-player tryout earlier this summer.

    “”They (the current Wildcats) don’t get the chance to get that type of competition during the summer, so the opportunity comes in the form of the Summer Pro League,”” Eafon said. “”They run and compete against players who are committed and want to play hard also.

    “”I think going against live competition with the lights on is a lot different than just playing pickup ball at McKale.””

    Among that competition is Jon Rosborough, a member of the Ace Hardware team (each of the 10 teams are sponsored by a local business, law firm or casino), who also happens to be the son of Arizona associate head coach Jim Rosborough.

    What: Tucson Summer Pro League
    When: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 16; Championship Day July 22
    Where: St. Gregory College Preparatory School, 3231 N. Craycroft Road, just south of River Road and Craycroft Road
    On The Web

    “”A lot of those guys probably wouldn’t have the chance to fulfill some of those dreams and to get out here to see how they can measure up against some of the athletes – the U of A guys, the European players and also the NBA guys that we have coming in and out,”” Eafon said of the players who made it through the tryout. “”I think it’s a great opportunity for those guys to get a chance to go up against those types of players.””

    Added Williams: “”I think they really enjoy it because we treat them all the same. Everyone gets the same uniform, everyone gets to play at the same time on the same court, so whether guys are pro or not, we treat them all professional, and they all behave professionally out here.””

    As the league continues to expand – the first-ever TSPL camp for kids ages 8 to 16 “”whose parents can’t shell out hundreds of dollars,”” Williams said, starts July 10th and runs through the 13th – fans continue to flock to Williams’ creation if for no other reason than its uniqueness: Where else can you see Jason Terry set Richard Jefferson up for an alley-oop, Marcus Williams pull up for three – or Corey Williams play, coach, talk on the phone and direct league operations, all at once – for free?

    Even Eafon struggled to place a comparison.

    “”I don’t know any other league like this on the West Coast that the NCAA certifies,”” he said. “”I don’t. This is the only one where college guys and pro guys mingle and play in the same gym.

    “”It’s definitely a great idea, and we really look forward to added success.””

    Adjusting to Tucson life in the TSPL

    Not everyone’s been a Division I basketball player. But most everyone’s been a freshman in a new town.

    In many ways, the Tucson Summer Pro League helps incoming recruits of Arizona’s basketball programs adjust to life in Tucson, while getting acquainted with their newfound fans.

    “”That’s what this league is really about,”” league founder Corey Williams said. “”It’s the first time the incoming freshmen get a chance to get a feel for the U of A crowd and basketball in Tucson, and the fans get a chance to see them firsthand before the season even starts, so it’s a great opportunity for them too.””

    Among the incoming recruits playing so far this summer are a set of twins on the women’s squad, junior college transfer centers Beatrice and Suzanne Bofia, natives of Cameroon, Africa, by way of Illinois Central College.

    The 6-foot-7 Beatrice was in action last weekend, matching up with another new wildcat in Lute Olson’s forward Jordan Hill, who hails from Atlanta, Ga., And Hill came away impressed.

    “”The tall girl?”” he asked after the game. “”She’s pretty good.””

    Beatrice Bofia, who joined the league on a suggestion from her head coach, Joan Bonvicini, said the area’s weather came as a bit of a shock at first, but admits she’s beginning to settle in.

    “”Tucson is nice,”” she said. “”At the beginning, it was sort of a big shock, but now I’m definitely used to it.””

    And just in time – Bofia will begin taking classes when summer session two starts on Monday.

    As both players settle in and prepare their respective games for the Division I level – “”I come here to get strong … and to be ready,”” Beatrice said, with Hill adding, “”I’m just out to practice my game, play hard and be successful”” – Williams looks forward to continually having players of their caliber in his league for years to come.

    “”We get great players,”” he said. “”We got guys from Phoenix down here – all over, the Globetrotters, the pros.””

    And they also get players from the pair of coaches – Bonvicini and Olson – with the most combined wins at the Division I level.

    – Ryan Casey, with Josh Fields

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