Suffolk girls sought in hoops league expansion

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, July 17, 2014

Suffolk tryouts for rising fifth- to rising eighth-grade girls next week herald the new season of the growing Virginia Cities Fall Basketball League starting in September.

The Lady Storm will be the defending champions after capitalizing last year on their second consecutive trip to the league championship game with a win over a Chesapeake team.

But tryouts will be key this year because many from the 2013 Suffolk team will be gone, having advanced beyond the age range for the league.

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“I had 10 girls on the roster last year, of which six will be ineligible to return,” Lady Storm coach Tom Lewis said. “I’ve got four that are eligible, but not sure if they will return. I’ll find out next week, but I’m hoping that they come back. Most of them do.”

But there is motivation for a greater number of Suffolk girls to attend next week’s tryouts beyond simply helping the Lady Storm fill out a roster. Lewis said the league is planning to expand.

“We’re hoping to grow to 10 teams, with some cities having two teams,” Lewis said. “Suffolk is hoping to be one of those cities with two teams.”

The city already plays a huge role in the league, as Suffolk Parks and Recreation hosted all league games last year at Creekside Recreation Center, which it will largely continue to do this year.

Lewis said because SPR has picked up the ball, it “definitely gives our community a little bit of an edge, because they support the whole league, so every game’s a home game.”

He praised the Parks and Recreation department for providing an avenue where girls local and from surrounding cities can play for a low price, $25 per youth, and he expressed excitement at a new allocation of city resources to broaden the avenue.

“We’ve never had the resources to have two teams, in terms of funding and stuff like that,” Lewis said. “So, this year, we’ve got more time in the gym on Saturday, and we have the resources to fund 10 teams.”

Hampton and Portsmouth will also possibly field two teams apiece. Ten league teams will be divided into two five-team divisions.

Each squad will play eight regular season games, one each Saturday starting Sept. 6. An All-Star game will be played on Oct. 24, the Friday before the single-elimination tournament to conclude the league’s 2014 schedule. The All-Star game will be the only contest not held in Suffolk, taking place at Portsmouth’s J.E. Parker Recreation Center.

Lewis said he does not expect the Lady Storm to repeat, even though it would be nice. But he is hoping to find younger athletic players.

“I just really love teaching fundamentals, and so normally when they come in younger, you can work with them for a couple years,” he said.

Suffolk tryouts will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. July 22-23 at the Booker T. Washington Recreation Center at 204 Walnut St.