For the 12th consecutive summer, Lewis Brinson is hoping area basketball fans will cool out with some of the hottest basketball in Tampa Bay.
Brinson, director of the Riverfront Basketball League, again is providing some of Tampa's top collegiate and post-collegiate players a summer vehicle to showcase their talent. Play in the 19-team men's division and six-team women's division begins today at 6 p.m. in the Tampa Bay Tech gym.
But Brinson wants the league to be more than just a summer outlet for players like the University of South Florida's Chucky Atkins and the University of Tampa's DeCarlo Deveaux. The Riverfront League, which is sponsored by former Bucs defensive lineman Reuben Davis, tries to provide good competition for players and good entertainment for fans.
"Basically, we try to create an atmosphere where families can come and have a good time," Brinson said. "The gym is air-conditioned well and we have a concession stand. On a hot summer day, fans should come inside and see some of the best players in the Tampa Bay area perform."
This year, the league should have some of its most competitive games because the Hillsborough Community College Summer League is taking a year off so the HCC gym floor can be refurbished. With the HCC league out of the picture, several top teams and players _ such as 1992 HCC champion Buddy Bi-Rite _ have moved over to the Riverfront League.
"It's like everyone will congregate in one league this summer," Brinson said. "During the summer, people are always looking for organized things to do. We've always run a structured league and kept a lid on things. Guys realize when they come down here they come to play and that's it."
Those coming to play reads like a who's who of the area's top players. Former Georgia player Toney Mack, No. 2 on the Hillsborough County career prep scoring list, and former USF star Charlie Bradley, the school's all-time leading scorer, are two Riverfront regulars looking for continued success.
Four other former Bulls _ Radenko Dobras, Gary Alexander, Tony Armstrong and Bobby Russell _ also are expected to compete. Atkins and Vince Hiatt, two current USF players, can play without creating a problem because the league is sanctioned by the NCAA.
"Being sanctioned by the NCAA gives us a lot of credibility," Brinson said. "And the city of Tampa recreation department has been very helpful."
Brinson credits others, but most people associated with the league cheer Brinson's efforts.
"Lewis Brinson has really made the league succeed," said Horace Drew, who has coached in the league for the last five years. "It's a powerful league of college players and overseas players who are home for the summer. It keeps the players out of trouble and gives them something to do, and the competition is great."
This season, Drew will coach a team sponsored by Bucs receiver Lawrence Dawsey. Dawsey's Suns will include Hiatt, Deveaux and his brother, former UT standout Drexel Deveaux.
Drew has high hopes for his team, but also believes the Davis-sponsored Cardinals Express will be competitive. The Express won last year's title.
Along with the men's competition, Brinson also is enthusiastic about the return of a women's division after a one-year absence. Dena Sachrest, who organized a team from her group of co-workers at USAA Insurance, also is optimistic.
"I think we're going to be challenged," said Sachrest, who played competitively during the years she was enlisted in the Air Force. "We have some players who love the game but haven't played in a few years.
"The men play in a league every summer hopefully this will be advantageous (for women) and it will be something that will continue."