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Local summer hoops leagues to stick around

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | JULY 29, 2009 7:15 AM

Fans of both the Prime Time and Game Time Leagues will likely continue to see their Hawkeyes on the court in North Liberty next summer.

There had been talk about the future of the summer leagues and the negative aspects they may have.

However, Prime Time and Game Time director Randy Larson, who is optimistic about both sticking around next year, hasn’t talked with coaches about ceasing play.

“I’ve always said, what we’re trying to do is to meet the needs of the Iowa and UNI programs. Whatever those coaches want to do, we’ll do,” he said. “But I didn’t read them as feeling that’s what they wanted to do.”

Iowa assistant men’s basketball coach Chad Walthall remains satisfied with the Prime Time.

“I think it’s terrific for our guys. There’s a great history and tradition,” he said. “I’ve always had a great respect for what Larson has done there.”

Larson said he had conversations with Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter and Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson about ways to make the Prime Time more challenging, because that has been part of the issue.

“We’ve tried to incorporate some new ideas to make it as competitive as possible. That was the idea behind dropping two teams. That gives each team about one more marquee player,” Larson said. “I don’t know if it has much of an impact, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the competitiveness.”

Walthall believes Prime Time has gotten more competitive and fun to watch.

“It’s tougher to get into the league now. There are high-level players playing every night,” he said.

One player on that level is sophomore Matt Gatens. He has been lacing up his sneakers for Prime Time for six years now, and he doesn’t plan on loosening them up anytime soon. He likes the game atmosphere and reuniting with old teammates.

“I support the league, and I always loved playing in it, and I look forward to keep playing in it,” he said. “It’s fun to see the guys I grew up playing against and the guys you see during the season.”

Sophomore Anthony Tucker, who also likes Prime Time, said it gets him ready for the season.

“It lets you play in a game-like atmosphere, which is better than what you’re going to get at a gym,” he said. “You have officials and fans. It’s good for preparing yourself.”

The Iowa women fared well this summer, and Larson believes head coach Lisa Bluder likes the way Game Time is handled.

“I know she really believes it helps her players and her incoming players especially. She’s always been very strongly supportive. We talk about it routinely, because I see her all the time during the year,” Larson said. “She’s never said anything about wanting to do it differently.”

Iowa junior Kachine Alexander is on board. After dominating Game Time this summer, she was adamant about what it does for her and the team.

“I think it’s a good experience for every player. For me it’s a chance to work on my skills. It’s not the same as a scrimmage, it’s not the same tempo,” she said. “Also staying in game shape is key for the upcoming season.”

If not for the benefit of the players, there seems to be some benefit in the marketing factor. The leagues have fan appeal and allow spectators to put faces to names. Larson also believes it gets the fans excited about the upcoming seasons for both leagues.

“I think the excitement of seeing Eric May, Cully Payne, or Brennan Cougill is way higher than it would be then if all were left with is to wonder, what is he going to be like,” Larson said.


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