For Derek Hannah, the best part of the YMCA Capital City League comes after the final buzzer and the cheering has stopped.
“The players take the time to talk to the fans and that’s great,” said Hannah, youth sports director at the Walnut Creek Family YMCA and commissioner of the YMCA Capital City League. “But to me, the coolest moment is seeing the kids and their parents excited about basketball and going into a gym and shooting some hoops together after the game.”
The YMCA Capital City League, a six-team league comprised of current and former area college players and current high school players with approximately 11 players on each team, is currently in its ninth season. Each team is sponsored by a local business, which pays for, among other items, staff, jerseys, facility rental, and the officials. There are eight regular season games with a post-season tournament involving all six teams.
Players from Iowa State University, Drake University, Central College, Simpson College and junior college players participate. The rosters are rounded out with Des Moines natives who now play in college far from Iowa and each team has as many as two high school players. No team can have more than two current players from the same college team.
Several current, former and future NBA players have played in the summer league including Royce White, Kyle Korver, Harrison Barnes, Wes Johnson, and Craig Brackins.
Hannah says the fans of the local collegiate teams are drawn to the high-flying, high-scoring games with this year’s games averaging around 600 fans a contest.
“It’s a great opportunity to get a first-look at some new players coming in,” Hannah said. “And by bringing in Division I players with a state-wide following, this gives the Y a platform to be even more visible in the community.”
But it’s the up-close, personal feel to the YMCA Capital City League that Hannah feels makes it so popular.
“As a basketball fan, I love the league,” he said. “It’s a wonderful experience for kids and other fans to come here and watch these players up close and then get to talk to them afterwards.”