The Naperville Youth Basketball Association, Inc., (NYBA) was founded in 1991 by Carl Axelson and Jerry DeVee to help meet the growing local need for more competitive basketball at the junior high age level. Originally started with two 5th grade boys teams, known as the Naperville Bulls, the NYBA rapidly expanded until in 1993, when there were two boys teams at each level from 5th through 8th grades.
The Bulls immediately became successful and held annual citywide tryouts to pick their "Red" and "White" teams for each grade. In 1994, the NYBA further expanded to include two 4th grade teams in their organization. Since their inaugural season, the Naperville Bulls teams have won over 200 tournaments in locations ranging from the Chicago area to Dayton, Ohio and Madison, Wisconsin.
Traveling basketball has exploded in the western suburbs and several other traveling organizations were established within Naperville. One of these, the Naperville Blazers, was founded in 1996 by Ted Van Dorn and Don Kalish. Initially started with one team, the Blazers expanded to four boys teams for the 1999/2000 season. Using its summer league as a feeder program for its 5th and 6th grade teams, the Blazers quickly became successful and focused its attention on selecting experienced coaches and establishing player development programs with emphasis on preparing their players to be successful at the junior high level.
The 1999-2000 season also saw the start of the Naperville Bulls & Naperville Central "Redhawk" Christmas tournament. This tournament was held at Naperville Central High School in conjunction with the Redhawk Athletic Booster club and featured over 128 teams from 5th through 8th grade.
In March 2000, the Bulls and the Blazers, under the leadership of Carl Axelson and Don Kalish, agreed to merge the two organizations within the NYBA umbrella, effective for the 2000/2001 season. The new organization's goal was to continue fielding two traveling teams for each grade level from 5th through 8th grade. After careful consideration, a new name, Rockets, was chosen for the teams and new uniforms followed. Soon the Rockets became a force to be reckoned with. Rocket teams won over a dozen tournaments during the 2000/01 season. In addition, a new 4th grade competitive league, consisting of four teams chosen from citywide tryouts, was established with a modest 15 to 20 game in-house and traveling schedule culminating with a NYBA 4th Grade Tournament on Superbowl Sunday. A combined traveling team, selected from among the four teams, finished first and second in the two tournaments it entered. The NYBA also partnered with the Naperville Central High School Boosters Club to put on the second annual Redhawk Tournament. Rocket teams won the 5th and 7th team divisions with the 8th grade team finishing second.
The Illinois Rockets girls program expanded into the spring/summer “AAU” circuit in 2006, with the creation of a 13U team that qualified for AAU Nationals in Cincinnati, OH. Each year since, our spring/summer offering has expanded to where in 2012, we have teams at the 14U, 15U, 16U and 17U level (i.e. a complete high school program) as well as six teams at the grade school level (4th through 7th grades).
The high school teams compete almost exclusively in NCAA certified college exposure events. As such, our offering is aimed primarily at the player who wants to play basketball in college. We have been fortunate to send players to DI, DII, DIII and NAIA schools as a result of the development they’ve received in our spring/summer program.
The Illinois Rockets will continue to expand its summer basketball league, playing games at local Jr. & Sr. high schools as well as private gymnasiums. Basketball clinics continue to be sponsored by the Rockets and feature the best high school coaches in the area. We continue to strive to be a quality program, focusing on developing competitive basketball players, teaching strong basketball fundamentals, practicing good sportsmanship and preparing our players to play high school basketball.