Queens basketball league in full swing

Graham Rock is a member of the Top Tier Officials organization, which assigns officials, including referees, to ‘outside’ leagues and tournaments, such as the ElmCor Summer Basketball League, during the off season until late August when kids return to school and some may attend sleep away basketball camps.

Graham’s parents – father Osmond and mother Gloria- were natives of Barbados, where the former played cricket. Graham was born in the United States and grew up in the parks of Queens.

A resident of Springfield Gardens, Graham was ‘caught’ resting between games and in an interview with the Caribbean Life at St. Michael’s Park, a Department of Parks facility in Jackson Heights, the new site for the ElmCor League.

“I played a lot of ‘outside’ ball during my days in high school and college,” Graham recalled. “I also played baseball in the Laurelton Little League… In addition to officiating games at present, we have our own basketball league for kids and a three on three league with Time Warner.

“When I played in summer leagues we were more students of the game and we would study the game (and players) more (than we do today),” said Graham who has been officiating for 26 years.

Nowadays during the summer leagues, the governing body of the college game, the NCAA, has certain restrictions where Division I head coaches are only allowed to talk to the high school players during the ‘open’ period as scheduled and cannot choose the players during the summer at their convenience or during certain games. This also holds true for Division II and Division III colleges.

The ElmCor Summer League that meets on weekends and weekday evenings is now about its half-way point of the schedule with playoffs to start in early August. There are about 75 teams in various age categories, including Unlimited from the tri-state area but mostly from New York City. Some teams come from far out in Long Island or upstate New York. Some organizations enter more than one team in the circuit.

For the first time, ElmCor’s league is holding its contests at St. Michael’s Park in Jackson Heights. It wasn’t their choice, but the beautiful two full-sized basketball courts came about because the New York City Department of Parks decided to do renovation at PS 127 in East Elmhurst during the summer, thus necessitating the move. What a blow!

At first, league director Greg Coles and assistant directors Stan Hicks and Darnell Chiles were upset at the timing of the renovation and move to another site.

“The renovation is good,” Coles recently said while watching some action on July 15. “But why now. We have basketball leagues for kids in the summer. We have over 700 kids in our leagues… This is the first time the league has been taken out of the PS 127 playground in its history(dating back to more than 40 years ago.) We have to make our park better.”

The renovation actually started in May. It began in the back, first with the baseball field and then with the basketball courts. At that time the directors were still hoping to get the games in.

Even with the construction everything went on as scheduled and for the best. There weren’t any complaints. When games are postponed because of the inclement weather, the directors move them inside to ElmCor, a short distance away.

Some of the players are still talking about the New Jersey Nets’ move to Brooklyn come this fall and the new players that they recently got in an effort to build up basketball in New York City. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will certainly make the big difference to the franchise in their new home in downtown Brooklyn in the upcoming season.

“They still need somebody(up front) to control the game,” Coles said while watching the games in the ElmCor League last week. “And the Nets need some more defense. (Brook) Lopez is all right (at center).

“And (most important) we got to keep the (high school and college) players home (to continue their basketball). This is a great time for Brooklyn and (basketball in general in New York City).”