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Prime Time League ends 31-year run of summer basketball

NORTH LIBERTY– The Prime Time League has run its course.
Founder and Director of the Prime Time League Randy Larson announced the league will not play this summer.
“With the opportunity created by an NCAA rule change to have four hours of practice together each week in the summer, and another four hours of individual skill work with the players, there just isn’t a need for it. When we started 32 years ago, college coaches couldn’t even watch their players scrimmage; now they can actually coach them all summer, which is great for the players,” Larson said in a statement released on the Prime Time League website.
“Between summer school classes and homework, strength and conditioning workouts, and now eight hours of either practice or skill drills, the coaches at Iowa and UNI concluded that their players were just being asked to do too much. They correctly wanted the summer to still be the off-season, albeit one with much more development than it used to have when coaches didn’t get to help the players improve,” Larson stated. “I completely agree with that view. I wanted Prime Time to be an arena where the kids could have some fun in the off-season, and to have our games be a little more structured than the pickup games they were playing, and to be able to play in front of our greatly-interested fans. The fans made the games special. But the players’ well-being has to come first. While I’m sure some of the players that I loved the most, really loved playing in Prime Time, I’m sure not all did. I didn’t want the percentage who saw it as too much to grow. We had a lot of fun moments. We tried to influence the guys into playing together, playing hard, playing smart.”
“I’m grateful for all the fans who attended, all the players who played, and all the coaches, scorekeepers, media, refs, sponsors, North Liberty Rec Center and Sportsplex staff, and helpers (particularly my secretary Diane Norden) who made it happen in a fairly professional way for a long time,” he added.
Larson said he would never forget a ninth-grade Ricky Davis dunking on grown men, or Jess Settles bull-moosing his way into the lane and playing full speed.
“Matt Gatens playing the right way every play; Ryan Bowen showing every player how to work your way into the NBA by going to the boards every trip; Wyatt Lohaus becoming a league MVP; Chris Street winning a championship game and then giving his jersey to a little kid; Mike Born traveling all the way over from Iowa State or Des Moines to show our younger guys what full-speed effort really is,” Larson noted. “All the many less-heralded small college players like Jeff Hrubes or Pat McCool or David Kruse who got to show they were just as good as a D1 player; and especially all the players who embraced the idea of playing as a team, not a collection of individuals.”
Larson said his favorite moment came when a particularly skilled player, who went one-on-one his whole life, made the extra pass with three seconds to go in the championship game instead of forcing a shot up.
“The guy he threw it to missed, and we lost, but the fact that he had embraced the idea of making the right play will never leave me,” he said.
Prime Time coaches were heroes in a thankless job, he said, helping stay true to the Prime Time mission of playing the right way, best you can without practices.
“I always kept in my mind what George Raveling told Tom Davis, 32 years ago, that he should ask me to keep playing in the pickup games in the off-season, before summer leagues were allowed, because, ‘His pickup games are better than my games were at Washington State.’ I know he was joking, but the idea that pickup games didn’t have to be junk is certainly something a lot of guys have embraced,” Larson said. “People love to play the game with determination, and a passion for winning, and showing how winning happens more often when you play together, has been fun. For allowing me to do that, and particularly for recruiting players who loved to play that way, I owe a huge thanks to Tom Davis, Steve Alford, Todd Lickliter and Fran McCaffery.”
The Prime Time organizer gave special thanks to Ben Jacobson and Greg McDermott and the other University of Northern Iowa (UNI) coaches for their players.
“Everybody loved drafting them– they were indispensable to the league because they played so hard and always the right way and almost never failed to show up despite the extra travel for them, and always made their school and fans proud,” Larson said. “The story of how good UNI has been for so long, with very few so-called blue-chippers, is their story. Their guys are warriors.”
“Thanks for all of it,” Larson concluded. “I started doing it for the players but the people who for three decades have stopped me and said they enjoyed coming to the games were more the reason I kept doing it. It was a treat.”