I recently spoke with Michael Wranovics, the CEO and founder of The-BALL (The Basketball Alumni Legends League). It's a new professional basketball league set to kick-off with a showcase event on August 4 and 5 in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
The concept of The-BALL is based on the star power of players who were standouts for local universities. Per Wranovics, the league has television distribution through Comcast Sports Net (New England and Mid-Atlantic).
At the start, The-BALL will begin operation on the east coast, but Wranovics was clear in stating that the concept is designed to reach all regions of the country.
The league will target major college basketball markets for franchises. The targeted players are prospects who weren't drafted by the NBA.
These players are a part of what Wranovics and The-BALL call "The 3rd Round." Wranovics is a diehard Stanford Cardinal fan, and he spoke specifically about former Cardinal guard, Arthur Lee.
He pointed out that he watched Lee lead the Cardinal to the Final Four as a junior in 1998. He outplayed then Arizona-standout Jason Terry, on Senior Night in 1999. But after that, Lee fell off the American scene.
He did some research and found that Lee has played for 11 different international teams since. He said: "What if diehard Cardinal fans like myself could still watch Lee play locally?"
With that thought, the idea for The-BALL was born. Conceptually, the league will provide fans a way to continue to follow the careers of their favorite local college players. The players will play for a team in the same market that they starred in on the collegiate level.
It gives the players an opportunity to further their careers and gain exposure in hopes of playing in the NBA. It's also prevents players from needing to go abroad to accomplish that goal.
Wranovics said, "We know who we are and where we stand in the overall scheme of things. We're not trying to compete with the NBA. Players are free to go, if they draw interest. It's all these players dream to play in the NBA."
The league will run in the summer time, as to not affect the NBA season as well. The-BALL's focus on players begins immediately after the NBA draft. Wranovics adds:
From the first pick to the 60th [referencing the NBA draft], seeing where these great players end up, the unpredictability of it all, it just draws us in.
But what about the guys who weren’t selected? With so much of the attention focused on the guys who were fortunate enough to be drafted, we would like to keep a bright light shining on those college stars that were not.
The following players are already listed on The-BALL's website as the best of "the 3rd round":
The 3rd Round (Top 10)
William Buford • Ohio State
Drew Gordon • New Mexico
JaMychal Green • Alabama
Tu Holloway • Xavier
Kevin Jones • West Virginia
Scott Machado • Iona
Henry Sims • Georgetown
John Shurna • Northwestern
Jordan Taylor • Wisconsin
Casper Ware • Long Beach State
For the remainder of "The 3rd Round," which includes the "Next 20" and an "Honorable Mention" list, visit The3rdRound.com.
The league has drawn some big-time names in the world of basketball to support its efforts. Villanova head coach Jay Wright is one heavy-hitter that backs The-BALL. Check out Wright and other hoops figures on the east coast giving The-BALL their stamp of approval:
Part of the reason The-BALL is receiving so much backing could be traced to its graduation incentive.
If there are players who have used their four years of eligibility, but haven't earned a degree, the league will have a academic adviser for every team that helps direct them towards that goal.
Obtaining the degree is required for players in The-BALL.
The league will also feature an innovative rule-set geared towards the basketball purist. Wranovics didn't want to completely spill the beans, but he let me in on one rule difference.
He said: "I hate the whole foul strategy late in games. We'll have a penalty for late-game fouling, but to allow teams the opportunity to come back, we'll have a 20 second shot-clock in the last five minutes of every game."
This is basically designed to keep the action flowing, and to encourage defense without fouling. There will be a 30-second shot-clock throughout the other parts of the game.
It's an interesting deviation from tradition, and yet a hybrid between collegiate basketball and the NBA.
The-BALL's aforementioned showcase event is a home-and-home series pitting Philadelphia (The-BALL.com/Philly) vs. Washington, D.C (The-BALL.com/DC). The first season will be a four-team sneak peek and will take place in 2013, running from June to August.
In 2014, the league will expand to eight teams and a 20-game schedule. The markets under consideration are Washington, D.C. (with players from Georgetown, George Mason, George Washington, and other surrounding schools), Philadelphia, New York, Syracuse, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond (Va.) and Hartford (Conn.).
It will be interesting to see how this new league develops, but I can see potential in the concept.
An old Illinois hoops fan like myself would love to have seen the likes of Dee Brown (Illinois) and Andre Brown (DePaul) play professionally, and locally. The-BALL would theoretically give fans like me a chance to enjoy more of some of their favorite players.
Stay tuned for more information on the league's events and happenings.
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