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Lights Summer League is a hoops hit

Summer league basketball making players of all ages better

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Players compete in a recent session of the Lights Summer League Basketball youth division inside the Armory Gymnasium. MSU-Northern head coach Shawn Huse started the summer league last year, and it's really taking off. While the high school level is the featured session, the summer league is open for boys in grades 4-8 as well.

It seems that nowadays, there are more and more ways for young athletes to learn and develop their skills, and one such way for local basketball players has been the summer league basketball put on by Montana State University-Northern.

Lights head coach Shawn Huse started the Lights Summer League in 2016, giving players at the high school level, as well as middle school and grade school, a chance to learn more about the game of basketball, while at the same time testing their skills against players from not just across the Hi-Line, but across the state of Montana. The Lights Summer League started May 23 and continues until July 11. It is played once a week inside the Armory Gymnasium.

"It's been really great," Huse said. "We have kids from all over. We have a lot of kids from the Hi-Line, but we even have some kids from Bozeman that were here for Lights camp and stayed for the whole thing. The kids really like it and the nice thing about it, is that you come when you can. People are really busy in the summer doing different sports or going on vacations or being with family. So they come when they can."

The high school aged kids might be the most fun to watch, as there are high school standouts from all over attending regularly. Yet there is just as much, if not more basketball being taught and learned at the youth summer league, which is grades 4-5, and in the intermediate league, which is grades 6-9.

Just like the high school players, the youngsters start summer league each night with some fundamental drills, lasting usually around 20 minutes or so. From there, it's all about scrimmaging and just getting a chance to play.

"There really isn't a substitute for getting out there and just playing basketball," Huse said. "For these younger kids, the more they play, the better they are going to get. A lot of them just need to get that experience and this is a way to help them get that. Plus, they get to play against kids they might not normally see, so that's another positive."

One local player who took advantage of the opportunity to play in the summer league was Jace Leeds, a 14-year-old who will be turning 15 during this school year.

"I think my favorite part about it is just getting a chance to come out and compete against better guys," Leeds said. "I also like getting a chance to work on my fundamentals and having fun just all around."

Leeds, who will be a freshman at Havre High this fall, said the experience was similar to that of a basketball camp, although the difference being the summer league is spread out. But in terms of good players and skill level, he said it compared favorably to a normal basketball camp.

"I think the competition here might even be better," Leeds said. "It does depend on what camps that you go to, but I think that the summer league has helped me improve. I think I focused a lot of things that I needed to work on and things that I didn't need to work on as much, I worked on those things to make them even better."

While the Lights Summer League prides itself on a player-friendly atmosphere, Huse isn't afraid to harp on those in attendance either. After fundamental drills, players are normally divided into teams of 5-on-5 or 4-on-4. However, one night, Huse didn't like the kind of basketball he was seeing from grades 6-9 and in accordance with that thinking, he made some rule changes.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Players compete in a recent session of the Lights Summer League Basketball youth division inside the Armory Gymnasium. MSU-Northern head coach Shawn Huse started the summer league last year, and it's really taking off. While the high school level is the featured session, the summer league is open for boys in grades 4-8 as well.

For starters, Huse eliminated the 3-point shot for that round of games. Secondly, he stipulated that the player bringing the ball up the floor, was not allowed to shoot without at least making and receiving one pass first.

"I get that kids are here to have fun," Huse said. "But at the same time, we expect a certain level of basketball to be played. The kids are here to get better and we want to make sure that we are helping them do that, while also allowing them to have some freedom and have a little bit of fun."

Huse's rule changes certainly sparked some intensity and also, without a doubt, improved the basketball at both ends of the floor. The MSU-N coach said it's that competitive atmosphere that exists within the summer league that he loves the most.

"I have seen a lot of kids really improve and not just from week to week, but from year to year," Huse said. "I think it really gives kids a lot of variety and gives them a chance to improve and watch themselves gradually improve against some of these really good players that they go against. That has been a lot of fun to watch."

 

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