VU WBB: Summer Basketball League

Vanderbilt women's basketball players have added a new activity to their summer schedule this year. In addition to traditional pickup in Memorial Gym, they're playing in the Island Sports Collegiate Basketball League in Antioch. The games are free and open to the public.

Dee Davis and Jennifer McFall have been there before. McFall, who played at Middle Tennessee State University from 1982-85 and was inducted into the MTSU Hall of Fame in 1999, holds the school record for rebounds in a career and is ranked in the top 10 in 14 other career records. Davis is Vanderbilt's all-time assists leader and is ranked in Vanderbilt's top 10 in six other categories. They know what it takes to become an elite college basketball player.

One of the key elements in becoming a better player is taking advantage of the summer off-season to develop individual skills. Summer provides the chance to get stronger in the weight room and to spend extra time in the gym working on your shot.

Summer pickup games have been part of the regular summer routine for Vanderbilt basketball players for years. Besides giving players the chance to practice their skills, pickup helps players stay in shape and introduce newcomers to Melanie Balcomb's system.

But pickup games don't necessarily provide an ideal competitive environment. When a team is short-handed because of injuries, or because some of the players aren't on campus, there may not be enough players to play five-on-five. When that happens, the team must rely on outsiders coming in to fill out the numbers. but there's still no guarantee that there will be enough players.

In addition, playing against the same players every day can also get kind of old. "It doesn't really challenge you as much when you're playing against your same team every day," Davis says. "You know what you can and cannot do."

Drawing from their own experiences, Davis and McFall thought that a summer basketball league would give area players an additional opportunity to improve their game in a competitive and safe environment. Over the past year, along with Daniel Gordon, they've worked to make the Island Sports Collegiate Summer Basketball League a reality.

League games began last week at Cane Ridge High School in Antioch. College basketball players with remaining eligibility are eligible to play in the league. That includes incoming freshmen who have signed a Letter of Intent and who have been cleared by the NCAA Clearing House. Additionally, all players must have the approval of their athletic director.

On the women's side, sixty players from 14 different colleges are signed up to play. Vanderbilt has the largest contingent with 14 players, including all six of the incoming freshmen. NCAA regulations require that no more than two players from any Division 1 team can play on a league team, so the Vanderbilt players are distributed across the seven teams in the women's league.

The women's games are played on Monday and Wednesday evenings, with the first game beginning at 4 p.m. and the last game beginning at 7 p.m. Each game consists of two 18-minute halves with two officials. Both of the courts at Cane Ridge are used, which allows seven games a night. All games are open to the public, and admission is free.

One of the major obstacles in getting a league like this underway is the fact that it isn't cheap. Games require two paid officials, in addition to the costs of insurance, jerseys, printing and other management expenses. Each player pays a registration fee of $50, but that only covers a fraction of the expense. To cover the remainder of the costs, Island Sports depends on sponsors and donations for financial support. If you'd like to help out -- no donation is too small -- call Daniel Gordon of Island Sports at 615-731-979, or look for Dee Davis at the games.

Dee Davis and Jennifer McFall

Former Vanderbilt player Cherish Stringfield, the current girls basketball coach at Hillsboro High School, coaches one of the teams in the league.

Vanderbilt freshman Jasmine Jenkins guards MTSU junior Laken Leonard.

All games are open to the public with no admission charge. Fans can sit in the bleachers, and snacks are available at the concession stand.

Vanderbilt freshman post Kendall Shaw sets a screen, while Jasmine Jenkins chases Laken Leonard.

With strength and conditioning workouts at 6 a.m. followed by summer classes, it's a busy summer schedule. Freshman Heather Bowe and junior Jasmine Lister take advantage of the break between games for reading.

After an organic chemistry lab in the afternoon and battling the rush hour traffic leaving Nashville on I-24, , sophomore guard Nadine Ndip catches up on schoolwork while waiting for the next game.

Jasmine Jenkins

Clair Watkins and Rayte'a Long

Clair Watkins hits the go-ahead basket

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Photos copyright 2012 by Whitney D. for Top Stories