Citizen Staff Writer
By ANTHONY GIMINO
The connection with University of Arizona basketball stars past and present helps boost the Tucson Summer Pro League to something more than curiosity.
When senior Hassan Adams played this summer, it was an event. His high-flying game is perfectly suited to the open-floor style inherent to summer league action, and he threw down several crowd-pleasing dunks every time he played, as defenders paid proper respect and often backed away.
At other times, the league provided the first Tucson glimpse of the trio of incoming Arizona freshmen – guard J.P. Prince, wing Marcus Williams and forward Fendi Onobun. UA sophomore Jesus Verdejo was a scoring machine at guard.
While they often were the league’s highlights, the presence of Arizona’s cache of NBA stars was nearly nonexistent after several participated last year, but Jason Terry did pop in for a night, and Harlem Globetrotter Gene Edgerson played for multiple teams.
But as the league’s second season wrapped up Saturday, it didn’t need its marquee names. There were no current Wildcats playing, but still plenty of oohs and aahs from an overflow crowd at St. Gregory College Preparatory gym.
The signature event was the dunk contest, and even if the players were largely unfamiliar, it’s not hard to appreciate the athleticism needed for a player to toss a basketball high in the air, run toward the basket, jump, grab the bouncing ball with his left hand, shift it under his leg to his right hand and then slam it through the rim.
That’s what Mike Scoggins did to repeat as the league’s dunk champion.
Mike Kidd performed a split-legged leap over a seated player for a one-handed jam, and Alex Davis thrilled the crowd with a one-handed, 360-degree dunk.
“I had to bring it out,” Scoggins said of his dunk, which he used last year. “Entertaining people … that’s the great part about it.”
Scoggins, a 6-foot-6 wing originally from Dallas, has completed his eligibility at Cochise College in Douglas and said he is exploring his professional options.
He posed for pictures yesterday and gingerly signed autographs after suffering cuts on his fingers while performing his winning jam.
“The summer league means a lot to me,” he said. “In Dallas, playing in some recreation centers, I couldn’t find any good games. I come out here, and there are a lot of people who are superstars who I didn’t even know about.
“Playing with the UA guys, what I worry about is getting taken to the hole and looking bad. But I know they have a lot of good teaching, and it helps me to find out what my level is.”
The El Charro team, which featured ex-UA running back and basketball guard Kelvin Eafon, won the championship game 85-61 over Williams & Associates.
Eafon also is the league’s director of scouting.
“We have a lot of good athletes around here,” said Eafon, also from Dallas. “When I first came here, I underestimated Tucson, but I found out really fast that there are some good players around here.”
The league played six weekends at St. Gregory, its new home after playing last season at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. At times, the gym, with a capacity of about 500, could have used something closer to 600 seats.
“The biggest thing I hear is just people thanking me for doing this,” said Corey Williams, the league’s founder and director. “The fans are very appreciative of the fact we put this together and that it is free. Fans who can’t get to McKale Center during the season can come here in the summer, and they really love it.
“I will make sure I do everything I can to make sure we have a Tucson Summer Pro League. We’ll make it a Tucson tradition.”