Summer is for basketball.
Well for some programs hoping to develop their teams for next season it certainly is, and three of those include Robert E. Lee, Ross. S. Sterling, Goose Creek Memorial and Barbers Hill squads.
That’s why all three are set to begin play in the Lee College High School Summer league beginning Monday and running through July 29.
The league, consisting of seven teams including two from Sterling and one each from Pasadena and Dayton, will have varsity games on Monday nights (July 8, 15, 22, 29) and junior varsity contests on Tuesdays beginning this week and continuing on July 9, 16, 23, and 30.
The first games feature Dayton vs. RSS Blue at 5:30, GCM vs. Pasadena at 6:30 and Dayton vs. RSS White at 7:30.
JV games begin with REL vs. RSS Blue at 6 followed by RSS White vs. Covenant Prep at 7 and action concludes with Dayton against O’Connell at 8.
Chris Pennington will take a much younger varsity squad to this year’s league action having graduated most of his 2019 Class 21-5A champions.
We just want to get our guys a chance to play together and build some team chemistry,” he said. “We will have to fill in some JV guys week to week depending on vacations.”
Pennington said that it is key to take advantage of opportunities like these so his staff can get good evaluations done on what the Eagles have to work with.
That process has already started.
“Our guys do weight training from 7 to 8:45 a.m., they getw three days of 40-minute skill development with our coaches,” Pennington said of the team’s work this summer. “We also practice twice a week for tournaments with parent and ex-players coaching and we play about six tournaments during the spring and summer. We keep them busy.”
Sterling head coach Greg Smith sees these contests as steps toward pushing the Rangers program forward.
“We have several kids that are playing at the varsity level for the first time and these are going to be valuable experiences for them,” Smith said. “We split our kids into two varsity teams and two junior varsity teams so that we can use the experience of the varsity kids to balance out some of the younger ones that are coming up and force them to get on the floor.
“This league itself has always been very useful for us and our kids get to play close to home and get better before we get back to the new school year.”
With sports battling for some of the same bodies at one high school, these leagues also provide a concrete place to schedule development time.
“We have a lot of multi-sport athletes and in order for us to be successful, we have to utilize our time wisely and efficiently,” Smith said. “Our kids have really enjoyed playing in this league and gives us something to work toward in the off season and it also allows us to keep tabs on the kids. We know they are going to take some vacations and have some family time, but we also want to make sure they have something to work towards instead of sitting at home all day and night.”
Smith has had his boys lifting and playing every day when they can starting as early as 6 a.m.
“We have had great numbers thus far with only a handful of kids that need additional motivation,” Smith said. “We are very pleased with the way things are going, and with only a few kids that graduated, we will return next year with great numbers and a very impressive incoming freshmen class.”
Over at REL, head coach Seth Due comes off a season where his Ganders just missed the Class 5A Region 3 bi-district round and now it’s about getting over that hump.
“For us our objective is to us this opportunity to play together in an organized setting,” Due said. “The hope is to see the offensive and defensive skill development that we have been working on this off season applied in a game setting.
Any time the guys get to play together the chemistry continues to grow and we get better as team. Leagues like this make sure the guys are in the gym and that is the most important thing.”
While Due and his staff evaluates the Ganders for the next month-and-a-half, the team will get a chance to take advantage of new University Interscholastic League rules that can only help.
“We have been taking advantage of the time allotted by the UIL for sport specific skill development, we have also been in the weight room, and playing open gym multiple days a week,” Due said.
GCM head coach Marcus Ebow is also hoping to get his kids to play together in a competitive environment while working out the kinks.
“I think summer leagues are a good way for some kids to develop, especially for kids that don’t have any varsity experience,” Ebow said. “So far this summer our kids have helped with summer camp and also have utilized the new UIL rule which allows them to get skill specific work with coaches on campus.”