Caught in the stands among the crowd of spectators watching the finals of ElmCor Summer Basketball League in Corona, New York was Jimmy Smith, the chairman of the Board of the ElmCor Center. He watched most of the games on a recent Championship Saturday. The high school division could emerge as the future college All-Americans and even maybe a future professional basketball player.
The ElmCor Summer Basketball League dates back to some 45 years when the league was primarily an outdoor one at the PS 127 playground in East Elmhurst. The league had different names most of the time under the late Cecil Watkins, who eventually moved up to a Pro-Am League position.
Over past years, a graduate of the league Greg Coles along with his staff directed the on-court program, including different age categoies at ElmCor and the 127 Park. This summer league is open to any team regardless of age and residence. However, the circuit is broken down into different ages starting at nine and younger.
Oddly, Smith never played competitive basketball in his native state of Georgia where he attended school. Basketball is not the only activity at ElmCor.
“We run a drug rehabilitation program here,” he said during half time of a high school or under 18 division final, captured by Hurst Nation, a 63-49 victory over Rennaissance. “We also run GED, education and computer programs. But we don’t play any other competitive sports.”
Smith has been at ElmCor as a volunteer. A member of the board, he was voted in by the community. He resides in East Elmhurst and is in his 10th year at ElmCor.
The league annually conducted outdoors at PS 127 but was unable to use it during the past summer because it was being repaired. The league competition will revert back to PS 127 next summer.
The members of the board want to get the kids off the streets and get them involved in sports rather than some thing else.
College representatives attended and watched the games as well as assistant high school coaches. The latter may coach a team in the league, if they wish to. For instance, Artie Cox, junior varsity and assistant varsity coach at Christ The King High School of Middle Village put in two teams in the circuit. He also entered teams in other leagues in New York City. .
Overall, the summer league drew 75 teams comprising 700 ball players mostly from Queens. In addition, there were individuals and teams from outside the five boroughs of the City as well.
“We had a competitive league,” noted Coles. “We did not have all AAU teams. We had average teams which were good. And they were still competitive.”
Coles thanked the teams’ sponsors for making the league action possible. They want to keep it going for many more years to come.