The original NYBA basketball summer league was created in the summer of 1997, by Drew Ondik. As a kid, Drew remembered taking his bicycle and riding a mile or two to the local playground in Pittsburgh on summer days, and playing pick-up ball with the community kids. No structure – just kids playing 5-on-5 for hours at a time, all summer long.
In today’s world, things aren’t as simple or charming as that, unfortunately. We rarely let our kids out of our sight. So, to capture the spirit of those 5-on-5 games on summer days, we started humbly in 1997, with 36 boys, 4 teams and an outdoor court (Westglen Park). In 1999, we expanded to 100 kids (10 teams) and we moved indoors to Lincoln Jr. High. Additionally, we went to a two-tiered league approach, to ensure that skill levels could be matched so as to encourage a competitive “evenness.”
We strictly play man-to-man defense, and while we have volunteer coaches for each team, they are there more to give encouragement than to provide structure or strategy.
This summer, we are again expecting as many as 300 kids (boys and girls), in grade levels 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (for the 2016-17 school year). It is not a co-ed league. We will be using Benet Academy, as well as other local public and private facilities, with games at 8, 9, 10 and 11 a.m on Saturdays in June and July. Each child receives a reversible game jersey at the outset of the season, and a t-shirt at season’s end. We provide game balls, referees, scoreboards and clocks.
The philosophy of the Illinois Rockets Summer League remains a simple one: We provide a safe, supervised basketball summer league program, where emphasis is placed on skills development and fun! We insist that parents not become zealously interested in game outcomes. We want to think of this league in terms of those playground games on summer days, where there were no adults around and it was just you and your buddies......