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Torrey Pines and Vista have advanced to the semifinals of the Open Division, whose finalists will be determined Wednesday night. Courtesy photo
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Swish Pro-Am soars on Opening Day

REGION — Former Grossmont High School standout Tommy Rutherford corralled a pass on a fast break from his teammate and laid the basketball off the glass and into the hoop.

And just like that, the “Swish” era had begun.

San Diego’s first Pro-Am basketball league celebrated its opening day June 23 at Miramar College with four games in front of more than 100 fans and local hoops luminaries.

And the consensus was that the league’s debut was a smashing success.

“This has been incredible,” league co-founder John Block said. “It’s turned out just as we imagined, and maybe a little better. It’s hopefully the start of a new chapter in San Diego basketball.”

Longtime Lakers analyst and San Diego resident Stu Lantz and former NBA player and St. Augustine alumnus Jelani McCoy were among the notable people who attended opening day. Former San Diego State star Skylar Spencer and current stars Matt Mitchell and Nolan Narain were among the big-name players.

Rutherford’s team, “Mt. Soledad,” registered the league’s first victory, a 76-65 comeback win over Belmont Park, which was headlined by former University of San Diego and current Real Betis guard Johnny Dee.

Rutherford’s teammate, former Oceanside High and current Cal Poly Pomona guard Will Christmas, was named the league’s first player of the week for his 22-point, 5-rebound performance in the win.

And current San Diego High guard AJ Burgin — son of Coast News reporter Aaron Burgin — was the youngest player (15) to play on opening day, scoring six points in the day’s third game.

For those who could not attend the games, the league live streamed the games using a new streaming platform, MVPCast.

A “Pro-Am” is a sporting event where professionals are paired with amateurs. In the case of the Swish League, overseas, NBA G-League and even a few NBA players will play alongside collegiate basketball players from across Southern California and a few top high school players.

The players, who will be selected by invitation only, will be placed on eight teams and play a 12-game season over six weeks at Miramar College on Thursdays and Sundays.

The league features a number of former North County standouts including Dee (Rancho Buena Vista), Christmas, Mikey Howell (San Marcos), brothers Marek and Finn Sullivan (Torrey Pines), former Vista teammates Taurus Samuels and Isaiah Morris and former Orange Glen guard Michael Diaz, among others.

Players and spectators in attendance Sunday said the league was precisely what San Diego basketball needed.

“This is perfect for the city,” said Ronnie Hands, a longtime coach and father of Jaylen Hands, who the Brooklyn Nets recently selected in the NBA Draft. “Most of our guys go to L.A. to the Drew League, but this way they can stay home and play against top level competition in front of their family and friends. This is great.”

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1 comment

Sean T. Harris June 30, 2019 at 8:35 pm

Hi, I am SD Padre an enquirer of the Pro Am Summer League, although, I gave thought into initiating the love for the game of basketball. In respects, I have brought the implementation unto predecessors like high school and DII coaches, teammates, and myself, by which, leaves effectively in sojourning to the professional level of basketball. In doing so, I am paten uncharacteristically by none other, otherwise, remembered as my champion model!


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