There is no shortage of highlights from the Drew League floating around on the Internet, and for that, oh video upload gods, we are eternally grateful. But why settle for a pixelated experience when you can see these ballers in flesh and blood?
For the uninformed, the Drew League is much more than just a highlight factory. It was founded in 1973 by Alvin Wills to be tops in the West Coast pro-am basketball scene and a pillar in the Los Angeles community. Dino Smiley, the current director of the Drew League, established the Drew League Foundation to bolster the Drew League’s community efforts and realize Wills’ vision of being a positive force in the community.
After spending many a summer scouring the Internet for Drew League highlights, I finally braved L.A. traffic and made it into the gym to experience The Drew firsthand. Here are five reasons you need to hit up the Drew League.
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1. NBA PLAYERS SHOW UP AND SHOW OUT
NBA pros, particularly L.A. natives, often play with Drew League teams. James Harden, Brandon Jennings, DeMar DeRozan, Nick Young and Dorell Wright are just some of the regulars. If NBA players aren’t enough to get you going, rapper The Game heads up team Money Gang, playing alongside Harden and DeRozan this summer.
Despite the social media rumors, Derrick Rose did not make his Drew League debut this past weekend, but Brandon Jennings (Tradition), Klay Thompson (CABC), Austin Daye (CABC), Charlie Villanueva (CABC), Jordan Crawford (Top Prospects), Nick Young (MHP), James Harden and Darren Collison (No Shnacks) all came out to play.
The best way to find out who will be playing on a given weekend is to follow the Drew League’s official Twitter feed and Facebook page. You can also search Twitter for rumors, but you might end up being disappointed, as many were this weekend when Rose didn’t show.
Either way, the Drew League is worth experiencing. You might even be lucky enough to be there when the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant drop by.
2. SEEING NBA PLAYERS IN A DIFFERENT SETTING
The Drew League allows for the chance to see NBA players in a different setting, not only in terms of the style of play on the court, but interactions off the court as well. Because it’s a small gym, fans get a chance to be up close with the players. Jordan Crawford joking around with the referees, Brandon Jennings sitting in the stands with everybody else, Nick Young getting treated by the announcer for arguing calls were just some of the sights I saw. (For the record, the announcer did also spend much of the afternoon hyping up Nick “I Am Legend” Young’s return to Los Angeles as a member of the Lakers.)
On the court, the style of play, as you can imagine, is fast-paced and iso heavy, so conscience-less gunners such as Young and Crawford have a chance to jack up shots to their hearts’ content. On Saturday, Young routinely brought the ball up the court, dribbled for about 10 seconds, and took a contested three, all without so much as a glance at his teammates. However, that doesn’t mean everything as The Drew revolves around ball-stoppers. Klay Thompson, his brother Mychel, and the rest of CABC displayed some nifty passing and off-ball cutting, while Pooh Jeter (who played with the Sacramento Kings in 2010-11) orchestrated the offense nicely for Top Prospects — when he was able to wrest the ball away from teammate Jordan Crawford’s hands.
3. THE LEVEL OF COMPETITION
The presence of NBA players does not guarantee competitive games — just look at some of the charity games out there featuring NBA stars — but the players at The Drew, whether of NBA pedigree or not, play to win. In addition to those from the Association, college, streetball, and overseas players also fill out the Drew League rosters.
The NBA pros may not go 100 percent, but there’s clearly still pride at stake. Emotions were on display: Klay Thompson and Nick Young each argued calls extensively, and Brandon Jennings even got T’d up. And while margin of victory can be a deceiving metric, 10 of the 15 games last weekend were decided by 10 points or less.