MANSFIELD — Roy Mack grew up at Johns Park, playing with and against some of the greatest basketball players the city has ever produced.
When it came time for Mack to organize a summer league, there was only one venue the 1996 Mansfield Senior product considered.
“For guys my age, this is where we learned to play the game,” said Mack, the commissioner of the Brolic Elite Pro Am summer league. “This is where you get the cuts and the bruises. You take your lumps and you earn your spot and you get better.”
Sunday was opening day of the Brolic Elite summer league, which shares a name with Mack’s Brolic Elite sports apparel company. The league features six teams and includes some Mansfield greats, including 1988 Senior High graduate Dapreis Owens. Owens’ Team Wreck dropped a 52-50 heartbreaker to Mack’s Team Brolic in Sunday’s second game.
In the opener, Team Formulated knocked off the Tygers, a team comprised of current Senior High players, 47-44.
“It was important to have the Tygers in here. I actually didn’t want to have the league if the Tygers couldn’t get in. They were a must,” Mack said. “For a majority of these younger guys, they spend their summers indoors. The indoor game is a little softer now.
“Out here you’ve got to get to it. It’s gritty out here.”
Senior High basketball coach Marquis Sykes, who cut his teeth as a player at Johns Park, agreed. A 1999 graduate, Sykes scored 1,151 points for the Tygers before becoming Morehead State’s career assist leader.
“We spent all of our summers here, from a young age all the way through high school and college and even after college when I still played a little bit,” Sykes said. “This is familiar territory. My grandmother stayed right around the corner and we spent many a day up here playing ball.”
Play was a little ragged at times Sunday afternoon as players tried to shake off four months’ worth of rust brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of these guys were really eager to play,” Mack said. “We had leagues last summer and fall, but our spring league was wiped out because of the pandemic.
“We’ve had great support from the community. We haven’t had a consistent summer league in Mansfield for a number of years and there was a demand for it.”
The league will run on Sundays for the next six weeks with the championship set for Aug. 23. The experience will serve Sykes’ Tygers well whether they make the playoffs or not.
“This is all about getting tough. Guys got to play out here on the concrete and get knocked into the fences,” Sykes said. “The older guys are going to push them around a little, but that will toughen our guys up.
“This league is huge for the city. Guys have been locked in the the house for the last few months, so it’s great to see a lot of Tyger alumni out here.”