CLARKS SUMMIT — One word best describes the Abington Youth Basketball League: fun.
The games feature razzle-dazzle passes and deep three-point shot attempts that would make any varsity high school coach cringe.
But this league is more about smiles and laughter than the numbers on the scoreboard.
“It’s about allowing the players to have a good time on the court, build friendships and enjoy basketball at its most basic level,” said Abington Heights student Jake Graziano, who tracked the statistics for the league.
The league, founded more than 20 years and run by volunteers, is dedicated to the promotion of basketball.
Graziano updated a list of league leaders in several categories throughout the season.
“I thought it was going to be an elementary job, but it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I had a great time doing it and I’d like to think that the players enjoyed the league a little bit more because of the statistics.”
Graziano was also instrumental in organizing a “Fan Favorite” game during the season.
“We wanted to make sure everyone was involved,” he said. “There were some kids who weren’t able to play as much as others in the games, but were still really fun to watch and had a great time. We wanted to highlight them in the “Fan Favorite” game. We had a great turnout. The stands were filled and everyone was into it.”
Abington Heights students Chris Kane and Jakey Krieger served as announcers and added a humorous twist to the games with their commentary from the sideline.
“It’s all about fun,” Kane said. “You get to come here and have a good time. All of these guys are my friends. I get to mess around with them and everybody enjoys it.”
While Kane admitted he doesn’t have a go-to call, he entertains the crowd with a variety of funny sayings.
During a recent game, he described players as “cooking it up from downtown” and “giving his signature sonic milkshake to the defender.”
“I just go with the flow,” Kane said. “I call Dylan Butkiewicz, ‘Seabass.’ I just gave him a random nickname.”
Kane joked, “I didn’t know fish could fly,” when Butkiewicz jumped to make a steal.
The league is also unique in that student-athletes who specialize in other sports including diving, volleyball, golf, soccer and tennis mix it up on the hardwood for bragging rights within the school hallways.
“Everyone from different sports backgrounds comes together to play,” Lorran Rodrigues, a member of the Abington Heights varsity soccer team said. “It’s a fun atmosphere because everyone jokes around. I enjoy being around friends and having something to look forward to each week.”
According to Malcolm MacGregor who coached the 10th-12th grade boys league championship team, M&M Law, the kids take pride in the league and help make it run smoothly.
“I’ve been involved with the AYBL for over 20 years,” MacGregor said. “I enjoy seeing the kids have a blast. It’s their league and they come out to have a good time. You can see these kids pretty much run their own league.”
Referee Dennis Mishko believes the basketball league is a great outlet for kids to utilize during evenings after school.
“I’ve been officiating it for about 20 years and this is the best year we’ve ever had,” he said. “The guys who run it do a marvelous job and the kids are under control. I have a lot of fun working with them.”
The league featured 688 players comprising more than 60 teams during the 2015-16 season. According to Jay Julian, president of the league, there are usually between 600 and 650 participants each year.
Any boys in grades 1-12 or girls in grades 1-8 who reside in the Abington Heights School District are eligible to participate in the league.
The season typically begins in early November and runs through the end of February or early March.