QUAPAW — When Rod Graves started one of the first summer basketball leagues in the 1990s, he didn’t know what to expect.
Graves originally launched a summer league while at Picher-Cardin, then moved it to Quapaw when he was hired as girls’ coach.
“There was really not very much going on for girls’ summer league,” Graves said. “I did a boys’ summer league for years at Picher and started it there.”
In addition to the basketball, six teams are competing in a high school summer softball league at Fairland.
Graves said he had only five players show up for games that first summer in Quapaw.
“Girls weren’t used to playing summer basketball; all they did was softball,” Graves said. “It was a struggle for a while to get that league built up and now its just pretty commonplace. We’ve had as many as 22 varsity teams.”
Eleven teams are entered this summer: Welch, Fairland, Afton, Miami, Wyandotte and Quapaw will be joined by Kansas 4A Division II state champ Girard as well as Labette County, Baxter Springs and Riverton. Girard’s JV team also is entered.
“I really don’t send anything out,” Graves said. “Teams continue to come. We lost a couple teams this year since we got out of school a little later. Some of them wanted to get started right after they got out of school.”
Graves said the schedule was pruned back to four dates over two weeks.
The first games were Tuesday, May 30, followed by Thursday, June 1; Tuesday, June 6, and Thursday, June 8 with action on the hour starting at 4 p.m.
Games are two 18-minute running clock halves.
Both gyms at Quapaw are used, with games running simultaneously.
“If I’m not mistaken, it’s one of the longest running summer leagues in Oklahoma,” Graves said.
Junior high teams entered are Welch, Wyandotte, Baxter Springs, Fairland, Afton, Commerce, Miami and Quapaw.
The first eight games were played Monday, May 22 with a final eight on Monday, June 5.
Kansas has loosened its rules on who can coach a team in summer league play.
Coaches now can work with their players in a limited capacity.
“It’s not near as strict as it used to be as far as regulating. At one time, you couldn’t have anything to do with it as a coach,” Graves said.
Teams at Fairland include Commerce, Quapaw, Welch, Bluejacket, Grove JV and the host Lady Owls.
Games are played twice a playing two nights a week, Mondays and Thursdays, with some Tuesdays and Fridays mixed in, said Chad Ross, who is Fairland’s fast-pitch coach.
The format of the league is to replicate regular season situations as much as possible.
“Some things we think like a scrimmage, but its pretty much full bore,” Ross said. “If we want to take a time out and coach them, we do that if need be.”
“That’s what it’s for: trying to figure out some things going into the season,” Ross said. “We had four seniors graduate, so we’re trying to figure out who’s going to fill those spots.
The OSSAA changed practice rules for the state’s fast-pitch teams.
“This is kinda like our competition,” Ross said. “We’re not supposed to have practice until July 15, but we can play a summer league schedule.
“It definitely beats practice. It’s fun.”
Games are played until June 29. That gives players a couple weeks off before pre-season practices begin in mid-July.
Teams can begin regular season play on Aug. 7.