Ithaca, N.Y. — Two leagues. Seventeen teams. And a full week of competitive, high-level, high-stakes Ithaca basketball — finally, on the court where it belongs.
The playoffs for the 2014 GIAC Summer Basketball League kick off on Monday. The five-day competition will culminate with the finals on Friday.
Hundreds of Ithacans and others from around the region will attend — bringing lawn chairs, food and, of course, a love of basketball.
“It’s just dynamite,” said Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, deputy director of GIAC, of the tournament.
“It’s going to be quite a playoff because these teams are ridiculously good … and you can quote that.”
This year’s tournament has a special importance, McBean-Clairborne said, because it’s the first time it will be held on the brand new Melvin L. Bell court.
Last year, the games were played on a court on Wood Street. That was OK, but felt too displaced from the GIAC center and the heart of the community it belongs to. The GIAC tournament has been held since the 1970s.
“It’s so extremely valuable to have (the court) back here and in a neighborhood where it originally was,” McBean-Clairborne said. “It’s a big deal to have the games back home.”
Neighbors will come throughout the week to watch. There are five varsity youth teams, three teams in the JV groups, and nine adult teams competing, with at least 10 players per team.
Participants range in age from 11 to close to 50. There’s a wide diversity of “race, color, creed and country,” McBean-Clairborne said. Teams come from Cornell University, Newfield, Cortland, Elmira, Corning and elsewhere.
They’ve been competing since June in the league to determine the playoff structure. Through the weeks-long league, McBean-Clairborne said, teens improve more than just their free-throw shooting.
“For many weeks of the summer, these kids have nothing to do,” said McBean-Clairborne, who also sits on the Tompkins County Legislature. “But this is a way to keep them engaged.”
“We find the coaches in our community, and kids get to identify with another adult who could be a mentor for them or a support system for them should that need arise. …
“There are so many factors to having this league and positive, tangential things that you would not imagine.”
As for McBean-Clairborne, she says she’ll be there among the fans.
“I’m excited, thoroughly,” she said. “Can’t you tell?”