LAGRANGE – Danterrius Bray measured his shot, let it fly, and not surprisingly, the ball found nothing but net.
Bray was an outstanding shooter and all-around player for the LaGrange Grangers, and he helped the team win a region championship and reach the quarterfinals of the state tournament last season.
This summer, Bray is still knocking down long-distance shots, but he’s not doing it in the LaGrange High gym where he enjoyed so many special moments.
Bray, along with dozens of other players, has been playing basketball in the Griggs Recreation Center every Saturday throughout the summer.
The league is being run by Callaway High assistant coach Sam Cotton, who oversees the action each Saturday morning.
Players of varying ages, and skill levels, get together and play a round-robin series of games from 9 a.m. until noon.
The winning team each week gets to pose for a photo with the championship belt.
While the games do get competitive, especially when it reaches the semifinal and championship round, Cotton said the league is about more than winning and losing.
“We talk to them about the game of life,” Cotton said. “This is a teaching tool for them.”
There is some high-quality basketball going on, though.
Two of the players, Bray and Callaway’s Quadarius Patillo, are preparing to play college basketball.
Bray is heading to Tennessee to play at Maryville College, and Patillo has signed with Johnson and Wales University in North Carolina.
Both men have graduated from high school and will begin their college careers this winter.
In a semifinal game two weekends ago, Bray and Patillo faced off, and it was Bray’s team winning by a small margin.
Cotton stressed that the league isn’t just for players of Bray and Patillo’s caliber.
There is a wide disparity when it comes to the ages, and skill levels, of the players involved.
Some of the players are still in elementary school, and Cotton said some of the league participants have never played organized basketball before this summer.
“I like the diversity part of it as far as different schools, and different grades,” Cotton said. “We’ve got elementary students coming in here. We’ve got girls.”
Cotton said the older and more skilled players do a great job of keeping everyone involved and not just taking over the games.
“I tell the veterans, I talk to them, and they come in and adjust their game for the little-bitty babies,” Cotton said. “It’s fun. We’ve got good kids that come over to do this.”
Cotton pointed out one young player who was hesitant to touch the ball earlier in the summer, and now he’s calling for the ball.
“That’s what I want this to be about. Compete, gentlemen, compete,” Cotton said. “If you’re 0-11, did you learn something, and did you get better. The more you play, the better you’ll be.”
Cotton said more than 30 players have come out to play on a Saturday, and he welcomes players of all skill levels and ages.
“Anybody can come out,” Cotton said. “We’ve got kids from Alabama, from surrounding counties. The biggest we had was 33 one time. We don’t turn anybody away.”
League play concludes on Saturday, with the games beginning at 9 a.m.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports