Former Arizona player Corey Williams remembers being “from the 80’s, where we played at the park” during his hoops upbringing in Batavia, Ill.
“Those days are over,” Williams said.
Now, traveling club teams are the norm, requiring the need for an abundance of money to participate in addition to having a decent jump shot.
“Club basketball is expensive with travel and equipment and all that,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, I see in college sports that’s the way that everything is headed. You have to have money in order to get involved in sports to get quality instruction.”
Williams, who played for Arizona from 1993 to 1996 and was a member of the 1994 Final Four team, has made it a quest to buck the “pay to play” notion with his Tucson Summer Pro League for Kids competition at The Gregory School.
Under Williams’ direction, the TSPL started in 2004 as a summer league primarily for college-age players to hone their skills for their careers. Seeing the need to help develop young players from Tucson, from various financial backgrounds, Williams created a kids division five years ago with one important provision: No AAU or club teams were allowed.
Kids ages 11 to 13 join the league on a first-come, first-serve basis by attending an open run. Because of widespread sponsorship from local businesses, parents only need to pay $25 for their child to participate.
That buys them six weekends of competition, a jersey and lasting memories in addition to a priceless maturation process in which they develop team skills.
“I look at my life and the ability that I had and the opportunity to come out here and play at the University of Arizona, never once playing one minute of AAU and never once really paying anybody to give me any instruction,” said Williams, who holds the career scoring record at Batavia High School and was inducted into the Hall of Fame there.
“I got to the University of Arizona off of pickup basketball in my community. That’s how I sharpened myself and I was good enough to play at Arizona. I can’t help but think there are kids out there that if you give them the opportunity, they can reach that level.
“It’s not about money, it’s about opportunity. As long as we have people (sponsors) that are helping us provide this opportunity, you’re going to see kids develop and grow that may have not gotten the chance because of their situation financially.”
A video interview with Williams:
Williams, the vice president at Crest Insurance Group, plans to continue his college hoops broadcasting career with ESPN next season.
The following is the list of sponsors that are vital contributors to making the Tucson Summer Pro League function. An adult competition will also take place June 22-24 at The Gregory School. The TSPL for Kids runs every weekend at The Gregory School — except when the adult tournament is held — through July 21:
Casino del Sol Resort
Pascua Yaqui Tribe
Pima Federal Credit Union
Buffalo Wild Wings
Moore Law Firm
Tucson Appliance & Furniture Company
Bruce Baca Real Estate
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.