High school basketball is very different from the Great American Basketball League. In high school basketball, you will see student bodies get behind their team and cheer them on to the end. In GABL, you will see parents sit in the stands to watch their son or daughter play an insignificant game of basketball. If you go to a high school basketball game, you will see players dive for loose balls and put their bodies on the line for their teams. If you go to a GABL game, you will see kids hack up a mid court shot right after the ball is tipped off.
Although it may lack the intensity and physicality of high school basketball, GABL makes up in creativity and laid back entertainment for its players.
In 1974, GABL was created by Roger Siuda and had 109 teams composed of kids from the third grade to the seventh grade. It was a volunteer organization until 1995, when it hired Sports Management Associates to handle its day-to-day operations.
Today, GABL offers basketball in the fall, winter and spring. It has 435 teams and over 4,000 participants during winter league. The league also started a child-development program in 2008 for pre-kindergarten kids. This introduces children to the game of basketball at an early age.
GABL has grown very popular among male East students, including sophomore Luke Faulconer. Faulconer has played three seasons of GABL as a high school student. He says that he has enjoyed playing in the league and plans to continue.
“I love having the freedom to do whatever you want on the court,” Faulconer said. “You could air ball a long range three and laugh about it with your teammates right after. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed, but still competitive.”
Although GABL may have a much more relaxed environment than high school basketball, Faulconer has doesn’t think it lacks any excitement.
“Last season, [sophomore] Graham Walter made a buzzer-beating shot to keep our undefeated season alive,” Faulconer said with a grin. “We were almost positive that we were going to lose the game. The team we were playing was kind annoying and trash talking all game. So when that shot went in, we all went crazy. It was like we won the championship. The other team’s parents didn’t take it too well, though.”
Just like any other basketball league, GABL is home to many rivalries. The rivalries might not be anything close to the Celtics-Lakers, Duke-North Carolina or even East-Rockhurst, but they still pack plenty of excitement.
“We have a pretty intense rivalry with Goss,” Faulconer said referring to sophomore Micheal Goss’ team. “They go to East and some of the players were on our team last year. And we don’t like most of them. When we meet, we play for the bragging rights and for pride. It’s definitely not just another game.”
According to senior Nick Lucas, there is no better way to beat your rival than throwing down a thunderous dunk to claim victory, something he claims he did his junior year against senior Scott Watson’s team.
“It was on a fast break and my teammate, [senior] Peter Frazell, passed me the ball and I just clutched the ball with one hand and drilled it,” Lucas said. “It wasn’t just a dunk. It was a rim rocking tomahawk that was like the final dagger against our rivals. I think I may have almost brought the goal down.”
Lucas has enjoyed many other fond memories such as this one since joining a GABL team his junior year after he quit the East basketball team. Lucas played on the freshman and sophomore teams, along with some JV basketball experience, until he quit after he finished his preseason workouts last year.
“After I finished the conditioning, I realized that I just didn’t have any motivation to continue to play,” Lucas said. “Hair was a great coach, and I improved a lot those two years I was with the program. But at that time, I wanted a lot more down time for school and to be with my friends. I don’t regret the decision because it’s allowed me to do several other things, like GABL.”
After quitting East basketball, Lucas still wanted to play the sport, but didn’t want something that consumed his time as much as high school basketball did. He figured GABL would be a fun alternative and formed a team with his friends.
“GABL is just so lackadaisical and it’s just so much fun,” Lucas said. “You can do just about whatever you want and try as hard as you want. It allows players to be creative and do plays that you wouldn’t usually do.”
Examples of these unusual plays include when Lucas pulls up and takes a deep three for no reason at all or when his 5’11” teammate, senior Kevin Simpson, posts up in the paint.
But through all the differences between high school basketball and GABL, there is still one thing that stays the same in both leagues: the harsh pain of defeat.
“After all the trick plays all game, we still want to win,” Lucas said. “Whether it’s for East or for GABL, no one likes losing. But the main goal is always to have fun, and that’s what GABL is. Lots of fun.”