Photo courtesy of Kenner League
By David Cordova
During the summer months, the sport of basketball is something that people gravitate to. There’s always excitement in the games, especially when it comes to pro-ams, whether in gyms or playground courts. One city where you can find good hoops is in the nation’s capital.
Washington, D.C. has a lot of talent from amateur from professional. The city’s main attraction is the Wizards, who play downtown in the Capital One Arena. But during the summer, there is an event in which the entire city comes out to see some marquee talent.
The event in question, is none other than the Kenner League, which is one of the best summer tournaments in the nation, and where competition is a must. From early July to the beginning of August, the games are played at McDonough Gymnasium, which is on the campus of Georgetown University, the area’s premier Division I school.
“The mission is for local kids in our area to have somewhere to come and play in front of our community,” says Kenner League commissioner Van Johnson, Jr., “We have a lot of kids here playing at a high-level. We give them a chance to play in a safe environment and against good competition.”
The tournament was created in 1981 and was named after the late James “Jabbo” Kenner, a former heavyweight boxer who became an influential person in the local community, who also founded the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington, D.C. and was a coach and youth counselor for 40 years before his passing in 1983 from a liver ailment.
When asked what makes the Kenner League more unique from other tournaments, Johnson replied, “You’re in a college environment, nice floors, just a competitive environment, basically indoors. A lot of summer leagues are outdoors, and this is indoors, pretty much.”
On the basketball culture in Washington, Johnson replied: “The culture, it’s revolving. It’s always at a high level, it’s the No. 1 sport in this area, always has been and always will be. I mean, basketball is the Mecca, and y’all call it the Mecca in New York, but it’s pretty much the bread and butter around here as well.”
And of course, another interesting thing about the tournament is the fact that it’s being played at McDonough, where many legends have played for many, many years. When asked about holding the games at the legendary court, Johnson replied, “I mean, it’s an honor, because a lot of great players have come through this arena. You name them, they’ve all come through here and played.”
The alumni list of notable players that have played in the Kenner League are legendary players such as former Georgetown stars Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson, Jerome Williams and Greg Monroe (Boston Celtics), to name a few. Other non-Hoyas that came through the hallowed courts of McDonough during the summer were former players such as Steve Francis, Greivis Vasquez, Gilbert Arenas and current pros such as Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers) and All-Star forwards Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins (Golden State Warriors).
When asked what a typical day is like at the Kenner League, Johnson replied: “A typical day here at the Kenner League, Johnson replied, “A typical day here at the Kenner League, you can come up and see local teams in the area, competing. The same thing you see on TV, you can see them come down here and play with the same type of intensity.”
The names of the eight teams in the tournament are: The Tombs, A. Wash Associates, Clyde’s, Higher Level, Premier Athletes Performance Athletes, Darren McClinton All-Stars and On Point.
However, this league is filled with talent from plenty of the college programs throughout the area. The schools that are represented from the area are Georgetown (Big East), Maryland (Big Ten), George Washington (Atlantic 10), George Mason (Atlantic 10), Howard (MEAC), American (Patriot League) and Navy (Patriot League).
When it comes to summer leagues, the NCAA has a rule that prohibits a player from playing in more than one summer league, which means that if a player is only allowed to play in a tournament, as long as it is a sanctioned tournament, within 100 miles of the player’s campus or residence, they are to play in only that tournament for the remainder of that summer.
Because the Kenner League is indoors, a lot of college coaches and athletic departments would prefer that their players compete there rather than outdoors, because it can save them from the wear and tear of playing on concrete.
A player that has been a standout at the Kenner League this summer is Mac McClung, who is a combo guard from Gate City, Virginia, who is known for his thunderous slam dunks. McClung, who will be an incoming freshman at Georgetown has shown plenty of promise, with a couple of 30-point games under his belt and has shown the Hoyas fans what they can expect for the upcoming season.
As the calendar turns to August, the playoffs will bring even more intensity. And with eight teams in the tournament, all will be fighting for that championship. But the comp at the Kenner League remains intact and will always be a good place for some hoop action.
What’s next in the future for the Kenner League? “To continue to provide good basketball, all-around basketball and competitive basketball, and give the people a safe haven to watch a game,” said Johnson.
If you’re ever in Washington, D.C. during the summer and you want to see a good game, all you have to do is stop by the Hilltop on a Saturday or Sunday, and you’ll see some great talent for the price of nothing. It’s always good vibes and good hoops at the Kenner League.
Highlights of Kenner League:
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