West Valley High School is a hoppin’ place on a summer’s night. Or rather, the joint gets to bouncin’.
West Valley is home to summer basketball leagues for a large number of area high schools – with divisions for incoming freshmen, junior varsities and small-school varsity squads.
“The coaches really like what we do,” WV athletics director Jamie Nilles said. “We’re sneaking up on, what, 18 years of doing this now.”
Back when Joe Feist was the West Valley boys basketball coach there was just a summer league for area high school varsity squads at Spokane Community College. Feist figured there was a need for younger high school players and started hosting a league.
Nilles kept it going when he took over as varsity coach and now, as AD, he’s turned things over to his successor, Jay Humphrey, and girls basketball coach Rick Jones.
Humphrey runs the boys leagues on Monday and Wednesday nights throughout June. Jones’ girls leagues are on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
“The girls leagues are run a little differently,” Nilles said. “Instead of having one game on two nights per week, the girls play two games per night once a week.”
After the school was remodeled it became even better suited to hosting a summer program. The new, main gym gets divided into two courts where games can be played simultaneously. The old gym hosts a third game and the auxiliary gym hosts a fourth.
For a high school program, a summer league like this one marks the first time the program’s coaches can actually work with their incoming players, gauge their skills and see how they respond to coaching and game situations.
“It’s a lot of fun to see the kids firsthand,” Nilles said. “The game is a little more intense when you get to the high school level. It’s a great time to view some of the kids who might have been a little behind in middle school. That’s the thing about high school basketball – sometimes your best players are the ones who were behind the curve in middle school. You get to see them blossom over the summer.”
Currently, there is no varsity league operating in the Spokane area, Nilles said. Instead teams play in area tournaments and attend team camps at area colleges.
“Jay likes to take his squad to a tournament at Lincoln High in Tacoma every year,” Nilles said. “It’s good to take your team on the road. That’s where you really develop team chemistry. It’s fun to take kids on the road for something like that. My kids used to say that I was a much nicer guy when they weren’t playing. I wasn’t making them run lines.
“I loved being able to spend time with the kids like that. You’re always helping them out and I liked doing it.”
The West Valley league offers each team a 10-game summer season, with the chance to make a playoff round and play a maximum of 13 games.
“That was always great about having the tournament at our place,” Nilles said. “For one thing, since it’s at our place the league is free for our kids, which always makes things better, especially for kids who can’t afford to play at a camp. And then there are always teams that can’t make one of their games, so our kids would always end up filling in and getting in a bunch of extra games.”
When a program plays in a summer league, plays in weekend tournaments and adds in a team camp, kids can get in as many as 20 to 30 games over a summer – more games than a school team will play over a full winter season, including playoffs.
The leagues are separate from a school offering, Nilles said.
“Our coaches run the leagues separate from the school,” Nilles said. “They pay for the use of the facilities and they charge schools to play to cover their costs. I really don’t have that much to do with it anymore. But it’s good to see the kind of turnout they get.
“We get teams coming in from Idaho and from as far north as Colville. Ritzville isn’t there this year, but it’s had a team in our league most years.”
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