The Seattle Pro Am has morphed into one of the premiere summer leagues for high school, college, and professional players looking for quality competition during the offseason. Guided by Jamal Crawford, and other local hoops advocates, the league (which was created by Doug Christie in 1996) helps highlight the Pacific Northwest's best talent, which can be found at all the top levels now.
Crawford's efforts along with that of longtime community supporter Marvena Kemp (wife of Shawn Kemp), have helped create a hoops culture that continues to foster various prospects. Along with the Pro Am, the NW Collegiate Summer League (the only NCAA certified league on the west coast) , Battle at the Lake Tournament, Reign Man Classic Hoop Tournament, and continued efforts by the IBL (International Basketball League), all have created opportunities for players to develop in a competitive environment.
The result has been an influx of players from the Seattle area showcasing their talents in the NBA, NBA D-League, and overseas. Some of the notable homegrown NBA talent includes Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes, Isaiah Thomas, and Tony Wroten Jr. Despite there being no NBA franchise in Seattle, plenty of big time players still come to town to showcase their respective games for aspiring youth in the area.
RidiculousUpside.com spoke with longtime Seattle Pro Am head coach Rob Brown, about the league and how it's impacted the community. Brown, a close friend of Jamal Crawford, has been involved as a coach in the league for 8 years. This year he coached the Huskies team which featured former NBA D-League MVP Justin Dentmon, as well as IBL players Carlos Singer, Ike Ohanson, Morris Anderson, and Donald Watts.
Brown gave his thoughts about the development of the Pro Am, and how it has become one of the top summer leagues in all of the country. "I think it takes someone like Doug Christie back in the day, he was the man of the town, and then Jamal (Crawford) stepped up and continued along the path that Christie created. It takes a known player to come back, and when the community sees that, they buy into it, and support it. You need influential names similar to the Drew League." Brown said.
Brown is one of the many IBL names that can be found at the Seattle Pro Am, which moved to a bigger location (Seattle Pacific University) for the first time this year. Brown spent last season as the head coach for the Seattle Flight, a team which played five games as apart of the IBL's branding concept for prospective teams.
The team is backed by Shawn Kemp, and his aforementioned wife, Marvena Kemp. According to Brown, he intends to return as head coach for the Flight this upcoming season, but will remain busy until the start of the season. "I plan on returning to the Seattle Flight. From here, we have a fall and winter Pro Am, and then there are a lot of tournaments that Marvena (Kemp) runs, which I will help with."
In addition to coaching in the IBL, Brown speaks highly of his experience with the Seattle Pro Am, and having the ability to coach so many great local players. "With the summer league you don't have time to practice, but I know a lot of the players because they're from the area. I like to incorporate the younger players, and also help the players out of college try and further their careers." Brown added.
The Seattle area has been fortunate to have motivated and passionate individuals such as Brown and Kemp. For an area to grow and increase the development of local talent, members of the community such as Rob Brown, and Marvena Kemp are key. When speaking to Brown, it is evident that helping young players from the area succeed and achieve opportunities at the next level, is what's most important to him.
"To me, its one of the best areas in the country for basketball talent. We have 13, or so, players from the area in the NBA." Brown concluded. Stepping back for a moment, and realizing what the Seattle area has done for the basketball community in general, is something truly special. In a city that could have easily thrown in the towel, and exuded a "woe is me" attitude after their search for an NBA franchise, and the shortcomings involved in that search, the community has pressed on and prospered.
The Seattle Pro Am will likely continue catering to prospects such as Chahales Tapscott, the 2012 IBL Rookie of the Year, and 2013 IBL Most Valuable Player. Tapscott had a nice showing at the Pro Am, averaging 15.0 points, and 12.3 rebounds. Tapscott set an IBL record with 20 double-doubles in a row, on his way to earning another All-Star selection in his second IBL season this past year.
A Portland State alum, Tapscott is certainly a recognizable name in the area, and is reportedly weighing his options overseas, while also garnering interest from NBA D-League teams. For Tapscott, the ability to showcase his skills on a stage such as the Seattle Pro Am, is a prime example of how the league can benefit a Pacific Northwest talent.
As Crawford, and the other numerous Seattle Pro Am contributors grow the league, and help it blossom into a premiere summer league, coaches like Brown, and players such as Tapscott, will ultimately benefit from participating in such a tremendous piece of the offseason puzzle, while also staying close to home.