Women's summer basketball league to kick off soon

By Rick Sobey

Staff Intern

SPRINGFIELD Ever since the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded in 1996, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been more popular during the regular season, the All-Star break and the playoff season. The NBA has done well with the Nielsen TV ratings while the WNBA has had a tough time attracting viewers.

Despite the lack of national popularity for women's basketball, the Greater Springfield Pro-Am Basketball League will be concentrating exclusively on women this summer. Tony Pettaway, the league's founder and president, made an executive decision to have a women's summer league without a men's one. The women's league is called the Greater Springfield Women's Summer Showcase.

Pettaway enjoys watching the women's game and believes that this summer league will be exciting. "This league has a great mix of different styles of play," he said. "These girls support one another and play hard all the time. The women's game is much more fundamentally sound compared to the men's game."

This women's summer league showcases some of the best international, current college and former collegiate players. European professionals from Slovakia and Italy as well as South American players are featured in this league. There is also a team with Boston College alumni.

"Coaches only send invitations out to players who can play at this level," Pettaway said. "The action is competitive and exciting."

The regular season will tip-off on June 23 at Springfield Technical Community College. There will be a doubleheader with the first game starting at 6:30 p.m. and the second game at 7:45 p.m.

The league will host free to the public doubleheaders on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at STCC until July 30. At that date, the top four teams will be invited to the Kara Wolter's Dream Big Invitational Tournament. This tournament will be the league's playoff competition in August.

Kara Wolters, a former professional basketball player and Olympic champion, is thrilled that there is such a league for women. "It is fun entertainment, and these players are great role models for younger girls," she said. "Also, the games are free to the public, which is especially important in this economy."

After playing for the University of Connecticut, Wolters joined the Houston Comets in the WNBA. She won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team at the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia.

In addition, Wolters has played for the Springfield Spirit and has led a basketball camp in East Longmeadow for 10 years. Having the postseason tournament named after her causes mixed emotions.

"Anytime they name something after you, it is an honor," she said, "but at the same time, it makes me feel old."

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