On Tuesday, another Drew League season was put in the books when Hank’s Blazers defeated Kings of LA, 104-99, in the 2013 Drew League championship before an overflow crowd at L.A. King-Drew Magnet School off Manchester Boulevard. It capped the 40th anniversary for the long-running pro-am league that began in 1973 with six teams in a summer league played at Drew Middle School in Watts as an outlet for young players to steer clear of the streets.
With the increased awareness of the league due to the 2011 NBA lockout and a young generation of players now in pro ball who grew up attending or playing in it, the Drew League is a major Los Angeles social event with long lines forming an hour before tip-off and a substantial Nike sponsorship. In Tuesday’s final, Lakers star Kobe Bryant made an appearance with his wife Vanessa to check out the action with his wife.
The biggest buzz was created when forward Malcolm Thomas, a former Crawford of San Diego standout who broke into the NBA in 2012 with the San Antonio Spurs, dunked on Dorell Wright, a former all-state player at Leuzinger of Lawndale. Starting with Thomas on the title-winning Hank’s Blazers was former Dorsey of Los Angeles all-L.A. City product Kyle Gibson, former Muir of Pasadena and UCLA big man Ryan Hollins, wing Frank Robinson of Sylmar and Horace Wormley, who played with Hollins at Muir.
The 2012 MVP of the Drew League was point guard Bobby Brown, who helped Westchester win back-to-back CIF Division I state titles in 2002 and 2003. The league’s MVP in 2011 was former Gahr of Cerritos standout Casper Ware Jr., whose father is a Drew League icon. Capser Ware Sr. played at Fremont of Los Angeles for Sam Sullivan, who has one of the league’s divisions named in his honor, with the other being named after Alvin Willis, the league’s founder.
Drew League alums are a Who’s Who of former Cal-Hi Sports honorees and players of the year, including John Williams (L.A. Crenshaw), Baron Davis (Crossroads, Santa Monica), Byron Scott (Morningside, Inglewood), Dane Suttle Sr. (Fremont, Los Angeles), and Raymond Lewis (Verbum Dei, Los Angeles), among others.
With its soaring popularity, the Drew League is likely to switch to a larger venue in the region next year. According to Oris “Dino” Smiley, its current director, the goal is to accommodate the large turnouts (admission is free) while maintaining the up close and personal relationship created between the fans and players in a small gym atmosphere.