The Sporting Life: Average Joe hits the court with the pros - The Explorer: Import

The Sporting Life: Average Joe hits the court with the pros

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Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2005 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:50 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

July 20, 2005 - Midway through the second half of Team Swoosh's July 15 game at St. Gregory's High School, Chris Clark was subbed out in a typical move to give the forward a break from the fast-paced action.

His replacement was not so typical: former University of Arizona forward and current Harlem Globetrotter Eugene Edgerson.

Anywhere else, this may be considered abnormal, but in the Tucson Summer Pro League, such a swap is commonplace.

While Edgerson is a crowd favorite - often taking time between halves to hold shooting contests with kids - Clark is one of the many that are the lifeblood of Tucson's premier pro-amateur basketball league.

The difference between the two on the basketball court is great. While Edgerson played four seasons for the Wildcats, Clark didn't even play for his own high school, Catalina Foothills, which he graduated from in 2000.

That doesn't stop the 23-year-old UA business major from leaving everything he has out on the court game after game. It also doesn't mean he can't play. In fact, most of Clark's life revolves around the sport.

When not running the court as a player, Clark is donning the stripes as a referee, calling high school games for the Arizona Interscholastic Association and local charter schools. This summer, he is splitting time between the pro league and refereeing games for the Arizona All-Star Basketball camp being held at McKale Center and other UA sites.

A regular in the numerous basketball leagues around Tucson, Clark's path to the Tucson summer league is a common one taken by the majority of non-UA players. While playing in the league at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road, Clark first heard about the open tryouts for the league. Before long, he was being named to the same roster as notable current and former UA players Ben Davis, Kirk Walters and Foothills alumnus Matt Brase.

For Clark, a self-described baseball player at heart, the competition and orderliness in the Tucson hoops league is unparalleled.

"The competition only makes you better," said Clark, who looked forward to playing against former UA hoops standouts Jason Terry and Luke Walton.

"There's a lot more organization than most of the other leagues."

Although the UA players and alumni filter in and out of the league on select weekends, attracting the curiosity of the capacity crowds, the Tucson summer league is survived by hardworking local players such as Clark.

"Those are the guys we built this league for," said league founder and president Corey Williams, a former UA player whose post-Wildcat career took him to leagues overseas. "They keep the league going day to day."

Williams gives most of the credit for attracting a wide variety of local talent to co-founder and former UA player Kelvin Eafon, who he said scours the local high schools, community centers, traveling teams and winter leagues.

A few of the leagues regulars are over 40 years old, Williams said. They include Foothills resident Jim Sivilli, who is playing in his second year with the summer league. Sivilli, like Clark, is a regular in the Tucson Jewish Community Center, where he played pickup games against Williams.

"For me, it's as good as I can handle," Sivilli said. "When the UA players get in here, it really steps up the level of play."

As for being replaced by a Globetrotter, Clark would have it no other way.

"It was fun playing with and against him," said Clark of Edgerson, who jumped between several teams. "He's a great team player and not just a one-man show."

After 50 games, the Tucson Summer Pro League will conclude its six-weekend season on July 23 with its Championship Saturday, highlighted by the finals match-up and a slam-dunk contest. Semifinal games will tip off at 2 p.m. and conclude with the championship game at 5 p.m.

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