Kenner League Basketball at Georgetown: Come for the Hoops, Stay for the Scene
The annual summer basketball league is back, giving area basketball fans a relaxing way to see the stars from the past play with the studs of tomorrow.
The scene at the Kenner League, an annual summer basketball pro-am event at Georgetown’s McDonough Arena, is part competitive hoops, part friendly reunion. The vibe is as much barbershop banter as it is intense hoops competition. In other words, it’s got a little something for the basketball lovers, the people watchers and the hanging outers.
The Kenner League – now formally called the Nike Pro-City League – kicked off over the July 4th weekend and continues at the end of each week until the championship game on August 7.
The 14-team league, filled with professional and college basketballers, is one of the nation’s preeminent summer hoops destinations. There are many reasons why hoops savants, casual fans and all those in between come year after year.
For the Georgetown faithful, it’s the place to catch the Hoyas of tomorrow. This year that means the five incoming freshman - including high-flying guard Jabril Trawick – all of whom will be playing on the same team (“The Tombs” for those keeping score).
Trawick, the Philadelphia-area native, shined during the opening weekend and not simply because the 6-foot-4 wing repeatedly flashed his sky-walking hops around the basket.
Anyone playing hard consistently on the defense end will easily stand out and Trawick’s end-to-end speed was both a joy and challenge to keep up with. And that’s just for those watching.
The Kenner League is a chance to reconnect with players from the past. Jeff Green, one of the stars of the Hoyas 2007 Final Four team, played with Trawick and the other freshman in town during the first two days. The Boston Celtics forward is one of several current NBA and professional players expected to show during the tournament, both on the court and watching from the sidelines.
Nearly all members of the Hoyas current roster will be there, including scorers Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson. The players will be spread out among the various teams, though pinning anyone to a specific roster, at least in the early games, is its own chore.
You can’t take away too much from these All-Star type affairs, but it’s an opportunity to see which players have been working on their individual games. Early on, the Hoyas nation should be happy with the aggressive play of redshirt freshman Aaron Bowen, who looked no worse for wear after sitting out last season with a shoulder injury.
Fans of Maryland, George Washington, American and George Mason can also catch a glimpse of their current and former players. Greivis Vasquez, former Terps star and now key contributor for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies brought his renowned shimmy-shake to the event on Day 2.
Then there is the random, like seeing Clark and his now former teammate Chris Wright once again team up…for a squad sporting orange jerseys, identical to those worn by Syracuse, Georgetown’s most bitter rival. Um, awkward, right?
Then there was the case of District native Jeff Allen, who played in the first game of this year’s league, but apparently that wasn’t enough to quench his hoops thirst. Maybe the power forward, who just finished starring at Virginia Tech, wanted more reps as he prepares for life as a professional hoopster.
More likely, the minute-by-minute roster randomness that is part of summer league basketball had some teams short on bodies, thus accounting for Allen playing for three different teams. On the same day.
In other words, even if you have a scorecard, you won’t always be able to tell who the players are. Well, unless you are one of those students of the D.C. basketball scene and even then, it might require a double-take or three.
Does any of this matter to those in attendance? Not really, especially when there is no charge (at least on opening weekend) to watch as many as five games on a single day.
The vibe across the crowded wooden bleachers inside McDonough is more about reclining and relaxing then sitting anxiously on the edge of one’s seat. Players waiting for their turn sit among the spectators, any pretense of being a celebrity left behind.
The play itself matters to those observing, but more for the aesthetics than the score- at least outside of the final moment or two of a close game. The intensity will rise as the league rolls on, but ultimately it’s more about summer entertainment in the city than the usual compeitive angst. On a basketball scale, that is. No time for nervous stomachs here.
Weighing the options for attending the Kenner League is clear: come for the basketball, stay for the scene, each and every random aspect of it. That formula seems to have been working, for many, many years.