By Jake Bartelson | @JakeBartelson
Host of “The Jake Bartelson Show” on WCRD, 91.3FM
Member of Ball State Sports Link
Production crew for ICE League: Season 2
I had never stepped foot inside Muncie Central Field House until February 15, 2016.
As a third-year Ball State student and member of Sports Link, hailing from the Chicagoland suburbs, I am loosely aware of Muncie’s talent-laden past in basketball lore.
I looked around me — purple banners commemorating sporting accomplishments coated the ceiling. Spectator seating completely encircles the courts and the feeling of “old school” grew the longer I soaked in the moment.
With the second consecutive season of the Inner City Educational (ICE) League underway — a youth basketball program focusing on sportsmanship and growing as young men and women — I now see more than ever the potential impact basketball has on the Muncie youth.
Despite varying skills, the development of teamwork stands tall from the first buzzer to the final whistle.
Yet, a greater incentive lies: the harder one works in the classroom, the reward for playing time grows. Participation hinges on grade point averages.
The League consists of three teams of seventh and eighth grade boys — as well as girls for the first time ever — from the Buley and Ross Centers, YMCA and Muncie’s Boys and Girls Club.
It’s business from the get-go. Most of the middle school-aged players exhibited more poise and focus during a shoot-around than I would’ve expected coming in; but, small talk and laughs were exchanged periodically.
Games are consistent with this observation as well. I counted roughly over 100 parents in attendance watching intently as their children competed.
I overheard coaches preaching the importance of moving one’s feet, being strong and staying focused.
Performance on the court matters.
DayVeon Turner, a sixth-grader on the seventh-grade boys Buley Center team, dazzled on the court with active hands in the passing lane, and showing a finishing-at-the-rim-touch I don’t have — and he’s several years younger than me.
Coming into the game, Turner’s mindset was to play hard and feed his teammates the ball while being a “true point guard”.
“It was good playing with my teammates and everything,” Turner said postgame. “I made a lot of good passes, and I shot the ball well.”
A simpler phrase from Turner may better illustrate how success in the League will be born: “Play hard and work together.”
Project Leadership’s ICE League sets the grade-point-average bar at 2.5 and higher for students who wish to fully participate in the basketball League for 6th-8th grade girls and 7th- and 8th-grade boys in Muncie Community Schools.
Follow @iceleague and visit www.iceleague.org.