The Tucson Summer Pro League, organized and directed by former Arizona basketball player and ESPN broadcaster Corey Williams, includes all types of players, young and older, known in these parts, and also unknown.
That’s the ambiance of the TSPL, featuring players with gray beards, small college players, military personnel at Davis-Monthan and those who simply love to play pickup basketball.
Put it this way: a referee was the best known person on the court when Ace Hardware faced Window Depot in the championship game Sunday night at The Gregory School. Chris Rastatter, a Rincon High School alum who works games in the Pac-12, has officiated deep into the NCAA tournament.
For more pictures by All Sports Tucson’s Andy Morales of the TSPL championship game click on this link
The MVP of the game is a relative unknown in Tucson — Jonathan Eppright.
He was one of the standouts for Ace Hardware with 18 points in a 73-55 win in front of a decent crowd of more than 200 in the small gym. Eppright made four 3-pointers, including three in the second half when Ace Hardware pulled away after trailing 27-26 at halftime.
Eppright’s own coach in the TSPL — Marc Johnson — admitted not knowing anything about his point guard entering the tournament that started Friday night.
“It’s the first time I have ever seen him in my life,” Johnson said. “He’s really, really smart, big IQ. He can shoot the ball, just a great overall player.”
Eppright is indeed spelled with two Ps and a Google search indicated that he was a first-team selection of the San Antonio Express-News as a senior at Seguin (Texas) High School in 2014-15. The 6-foot guard averaged 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game that season.
When asked about a potential college career, Eppright answered, “I started working and I didn’t play any college. I just came straight to the military after high school.”
Eppright is one of seven players in the tournament who is stationed at Davis-Monthan, having served two years there. He is part of a team on the base captained by Jarred Adams, who played with Asarco in the TSPL.
“It was fun, really competitive,” Eppright said when asked about playing against some of his Davis-Monthan teammates in the tournament. “My friend Jarred stole the ball from me. I blocked him. It was really competitive. It was pretty fun.”
Adams was the MVP of last summer’s TSPL. Adams talked to me Friday about potentially using the experience of playing in a league that features other military bases as a means to be recognized by scouts of professional teams overseas.
Eppright echoed that hope playing at Davis-Monthan.
“I plan on pretty much making it a career in the military unless something else comes up with basketball,” he said.
Ace Hardware’s Brandon Miller, nicknamed “B-Love,” looked like the oldest player on the court with a gray beard but he was as youthful and strong as anybody. He had 14 of his 18 points in the second half.
Sivan Veazie also had all 12 of his points in the second half for Ace Hardware.
Miller and Veazie are members of the Tucson Buckets, a semipro team that plays their games at Pima Community College starting in November.
Eppright, Veazie and Miller combined to make seven 3-pointers in the second half.
Ace Hardware’s slow start in the title game was its tournament experience in microcosm after losing its first game Friday night. Johnson’s team went on to win five straight games, including the title game over Window Depot.
“They started off bad because we lost the first game, but I told them before that game, ‘This is the team that’s going to win it all,'” said Johnson, who coached the Tucson Buckets last year. “They turned around and lost that game, but I knew how they can play. I know what they can do. They proved me right.”
Former Cholla High School and Tohono O’odham Community College standout Lual Magot, who plays for NAIA school McPherson (Kan.) College, led Window Depot with 14 points.
The TSPL for Kids competition resumes next weekend at The Gregory School leading up to the championship game July 21.
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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.