Leo Morris takes a shot during P.E.I. Senior Men’s Basketball League action Sunday at UPEI.
League providing a place for former university, college players to keep playing
Leo Morris’ collegiate basketball career came to an end in the national final last year in Montreal.
But the Holland College Hurricanes forward was not ready to step away from the court.
“I knew I was always going to play, even just to stay in shape, because I love the game,” Morris said.
He has found a way to continue playing in the newly formed P.E.I. Senior Men’s Basketball League. The UPEI basketball programs operate the four-team circuit.
The league includes a number of former Hurricanes, UPEI Panthers and local talent like Ryan Keliher, Jeff Walker and Jason MacDonald.
“It’s nice getting back playing at UPEI,” said Jon Cooper, who played five years in the green and white for the Panthers.
“You go through your career practising every day, playing every day and all of a sudden it’s over,” Cooper added. “After your career you still have that tingle and the thirst for the game.”
Morris and Cooper played against each other during Sunday’s second game of the season with Morris’ team, The Vets, defeating the Blue Ballers 85-67.
In the second game, Courtside downed the Young Guns 97-80. Former Panther Jermaine Duke had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Courtside while his teammate Jon Lane had 17 points and 17 rebounds.
Spencer Dawson, a redshirt with the Panthers this season, had 31 for the Young Guns.
Asked how his legs were after the contest, Cooper replied with a smile, “horrible. I have to get back in the swing of things.”
The league builds on the eight-team spring league operated out of Charlottetown last year. It included two teams of players trying to make the Canada Games team, plus a number of high school players.
UPEI Panthers men’s basketball coach Tim Kendrick operated similar leagues in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley to help fund his high school team. He is hoping to build a similar system in Prince Edward Island.
“One of the things when I came here is we wanted to get involved with Basketball P.E.I. and try to help build the game on the Island,” Kendrick said. “It’s a role for us that we can really fill and it’s also great for us.”
The teams pay to play with the funds, after expenses like gym rentals and paying Panthers to referee, going back into the UPEI basketball programs. Finding additional revenue streams is imperative, Kendrick said, for the future of the teams.
“We’re asking for money, but we want to do something for it. We want to work for it,” Kendrick said.
He envisions the league growing with teams from across the Island. He said there are plans for a women’s league next year and more spring leagues from mini and bantam to high school and men’s divisions.
Getting more children playing the game, he hopes, helps youth improve their game and thinking about playing at the university level.
“Ultimately, I’d love to have three or four kids from P.E.I. on our team, and not just our 11th or 12th man, but like Aaron Robbins is now — a starter,” Kendrick said.
The Panthers also have a few of their young players and redshirts playing in the league.
“It helps us for sure because they get minutes they’re not getting in games and helps them develop as players,” Kendrick said.
For Morris, it’s an opportunity to continue playing the game he loves in a city he now calls home.
The Nassau, Bahamas, native never thought he would stay in Charlottetown three years ago when he moved to Prince Edward Island. Morris has received a three-year work permit and is currently employed by the Culinary Institute of Canada and Rodd Royalty.
“I love it here.”
P.E.I. Senior Men’s Basketball League
What – A four-team winter basketball league that plays in Charlottetown.
When – League started Nov. 24 and the championship game is slated for Feb. 23. It plays on Tuesdays and Sundays.
Teams – Blue Ballers, Courtside, Young Guns and The Vets.
Online – http://peimensbball.wordpress.com/