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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Matt Wheaton- Galesburg Summer League

The following is Matt Wheaton's article on Galesburg Summer League. It is the second longest running summer basketball league in Illinois (behind Maine West). It is the largest downstate league in Illinois.

It’s not really hard for Galesburg High School girls basketball coach Evan Massey to figure out how long he’s been organizing the Galesburg Summer League. 

“This is the 27th year we’ve done it,” said Massey, who is entering his 36th season at the helm of the Silver Streaks. “The only reason I know is you put it at the top of the sheet and the next year you change it.”

Massey started the league for a simple reason.

“What I found was people in Peoria, the Quad Cities and Chicago were getting chances to play and we weren’t,” Massey said. “Starting out, we invited some teams to play on a couple of Saturdays and from there just expanded it to do more dates that way. I would say it grew to where it was at its largest five to 10 years ago. On weekends, we might have 40 to 50 teams here and now we get maybe 10 to 12 on a weekend.

“There are just so many more places to do things now. There are colleges that run things and other high schools do, too,” he added. “The Tuesday-Thursday night part of our league, we are having usually 20 to 25 games a night on those nights. It’s still big that way. As far as size and stuff, we are the largest downstate summer league.”

Massey said if one were to draw a circle 25 miles around Galesburg most of the schools within it participate in the GSL either with a varsity team or a varsity and a sophomore team. Some schools field a varsity, sophomore and junior high team and others may have one of the three types of teams participate.

“We probably have 15 to 20 varsity teams that are regulars,” Massey said. “They either come once a week or twice a week and we’ve got 10 to 12 fresh-soph teams that are the same way. Then, we’ve got another 10 to 15 that come to certain dates. By the time the summer is over, we will have probably 40 varsity teams and 15 sophomore teams come through and play at some time or another.

“When they sign up, they also sign up for what kind of competition they want. They can say, ‘we want to play the best, we want to play just good competition or average,’ ” Massey added. “You try to match up people that you think are going to be similar in ability. It’s completely a development league. We can’t do it completely but we try to avoid having conference schools play each other.”

Western Big 6 Conference foes Moline, United Township and Rock Island Alleman regularly play in the GSL.

“We’ve been in it ever since I’ve been a coach,” said United Township girls basketball coach Justin Shiltz, who is entering his fifth season at the helm of the Panthers. “It’s a good league. I don’t know how Coach Massey does it and gets all those teams down there. It is good for us, because we get to play two games in a night and it breaks up our week a little bit. It is a well run league and we haven’t had any issues with it.

“We want to play the best teams,” he added. “He gets the bigger and the smaller schools down. We see a lot of variety and face well coached teams. It’s good for us and that’s why we go down there. If we aren’t playing a bigger school then we are playing a smaller school that is solid. For a summer league on our side of the state, I think it is pretty good. He gets a lot of good teams with a lot of variety.”

While the GSL benefits their WB6 opponents, it also helps future and current Silver Streaks.
“The biggest thing that has helped us is getting different levels playing,” Massey said. “We’ve got a varsity team, a JV team, three combination fresh/soph teams and three combination seventh/eighth-grade teams. The nice thing is we can move kids around. I would say 90 percent of the high schools have their top eight to 10 varsity kids play in leagues and tournaments in the summer and the rest get nothing.

“You might argue that the league is more important to our freshmen and sophomores than it is to our experienced varsity kids because it’s an opportunity for our younger kids to get a chance to play,” he added. “For us, seventh through 12th grade, we’ve got something like 65 Galesburg kids who are getting to play this summer. It’s a pretty good deal because they never have to travel. You get to play right here. I don’t think there is probably anyone else in Illinois that gives that kind of opportunity to kids.”

And the chances Massey provides are meant to be enjoyable.

“I think the other thing that is nice about the league is I’d like to think it’s a recreational thing, too. It’s not a higher pressure thing. It’s the opportunity to play in a little bit more relaxed atmosphere,” Massey said. “In terms of the number of hours in the spring that it takes to get the league up and running it takes more hours than really I wish that it did but it is something that on a personal level I’m really proud of. It is something positive within our program but I think it is also a positive within our community with the number of people we get involved in playing, the number of people involved as far as referees and everything else.”

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