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Rec league taught them more than basketball

June 26, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

The message was clear: in between the dribbles of a basketball, hundreds of kids involved in the summer league at Hagerstown's Memorial Recreation Center learned a lot more than how to do a lay-up.

Many of them came back Saturday night to say thanks.

"It gave me good values, playing in that league in the '80s," said Phillip Young, who returned to his hometown from Harrisburg, Pa., for the league's first alumni fund-raising banquet.

Designed for youths ages 8-14, the league operates on Sundays throughout the summer.

A 1986 North Hagerstown High School graduate, Young said he believes he was only six when he started showing up for the league games.

"And I stayed until they kicked me out as too old," Young said with a chuckle. "I wanted to be there because it was a good place to be."

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Also drawn back for the banquet was Rodney Monroe, a basketball star at St. Maria Goretti High School, then North Carolina State University and now as a professional playing in Italy.

"My very first experience in basketball was playing in this league," said Monroe, who eventually reached the National Basketball Association as the Atlanta Hawks' second-round draft choice in 1992. "It was definitely a stepping stone for me."

Home on a summer hiatus, Monroe sponsors a basketball camp at Hagerstown Community College, which gets under way Monday.

Another local basketball standout, Avery Carey, also attended Saturday evening's banquet. A recent graduate of George Mason University after starring at Hagerstown Community College, Carey is about to embark on his professional basketball career in the Netherlands.

"This league taught me a lot about basketball, but it also kept me off the streets," Carey said. "It was very important to me."

Darren Bell traveled from Odenton, Md., for the banquet, anxious to see friends and former teammates.

Bell played in the rec league in the 1970s and went on to become a member of the 1981 South Hagerstown High School team that played in the state tournament in College Park.

"We lost but we went," Bell said. He credits the league with teaching him a lot of things that he was able to use later in life.

Kenneth Keyes Jr. also remembered playing in the league in the '70s.

"We played in Wheaton Park when the weather was good, but when it rained we'd go to the Martin Luther King Center," Keyes said.

Now an assistant basketball coach at HCC, Keyes said the summer league gave him an opportunity to develop his skills.

Those skills propelled Keyes into school sports at North High, where in 1977 he was the Tri-State League Player of the Year.

"You looked forward to it every Sunday - as soon as you got home from Sunday school, you'd put your shirt on and go," he said.

Keyes said his support of the league now is his way of giving back what it gave to him.

Organized by the members of the league's board of directors, the banquet raised funds to keep the program going for the coming generations of boys and girls.

Don Anderson, an alumnus of St. James School and an assistant coach at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md., was the guest speaker.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the league is urged to contact Ruth Monroe at 301-790-0203.

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