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County summer league stays hot

Six years ago, the University of Tampa and Adidas combined to sponsor a summer basketball league for boys of high school age from Hillsborough County. But after that summer, Adidas dropped its sponsorship _ and that bothered Mike Moran, then the coach at Plant High. But Moran, now coaching at King, saw the vacancy as an opportunity to move in and keep summer basketball alive in the county.

The results have been no less than overwhelming. The Hillsborough County Summer League has taken off.

"We're actually overbooked this year," Moran said. "We usually have 12 to 14 teams involved but have 18 teams this year. We had to cut back the games played from 12 to 10. Next year, I would like to see if we could play at two or three different locations."

Sixteen of the teams participating are made up of players from county public and private schools. The other two are Auburndale (Polk County) and Land O' Lakes (Pasco). Most rosters have 10 to 12 players. They do not officially represent their high schools.

The Bob Martinez Sports Center, which currently is host to the girls Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball league, will be the site for six playing dates starting June 20. A tournament is being planned at the Sun Dome the weekend of July 19 to conclude the season, but arrangements are pending.

Designed to keep players in touch with the game during the summer months, the program is taken very seriously by the participants.

"The players become very competitive," Moran said. "The last four years we have held the championship at the Sun Dome and the turnout has been real good and it's great for the players."

"There are so many things that you can get out of this program," said Jesuit coach Neal Goldman, who may direct the program next year. "The coaches get to find out what next year's team may look like and are able to work on a few things. And the players get the experience of going up against varsity level players."

Each team is charged an entrance fee. The finances are then used to cover the costs of having officials and insurance policies. Also, each participating school was sent 12 shirts.

By the time the program concludes, coaches have a good feel about what players are serious and what teams may succeed in the coming fall.

"The past few years it's been pretty consistent that the top four or five teams end up being among the better teams during the season," Moran said. "Real good teams are made during the summer months. The off-season represents another 12 or 13 chances to play."

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