Former South Carolina point guard Carey Rich is living a dream. For the second straight season, Rich has been instrumental in bringing the South Carolina Pro-Am Summer Basketball League to the Columbia area.
The event combines college players and elite high school talent in order to test their skills against professional players — mainly from leagues overseas — who have ties to the state. Last year was a success, and with the talented lineup expected to play this season, expectations are higher.
Rich is thrilled to be able to give back to the game and community that mean so much to him. Rich won a state championship with C.A. Johnson in 1989 and was a captain at USC.
“Basketball is life to me, and it’s afforded me many great opportunities and a stage to help other people,” Rich said. “With the summer league, it allows me to do just that. It not only becomes a great community event, it allows the guys that are up and coming — whether you’re talking about an elite high school player or a college basketball player — to play in a safe and competitive environment and work on their skills. This area hasn’t always had that.”
This is an NCAA sanctioned league, so all coaches are certified through the NCAA. The guidelines in which players are selected are closely followed.
Rich is league commissioner, and Adam McDowell is the execute commissioner. Both work closely with the NCAA to make sure rules and regulations are followed.
College coaches aren’t allowed to watch, but nearly every conference in this area will be represented with players.
“The NCAA does a good job of reminding us of the things that we need to abide by,” Rich said. “If you don’t follow their rules, you aren’t allowed to have a summer league. My partner, Adam McDowell, does a terrific job on that side of things in securing the rules and understanding the NCAA compliance.”
South Carolina, Clemson, Presbyterian, Coastal Carolina, Newberry and Benedict are represented throughout the 10-team league.
According to its league website, scproam.com, Michael Carrera, Sindarius Thornwell, Ty Johnson, and Justin McKie lead the contingent of Gamecock players, while Jordan Roper, Austin Ajukwa and Rod Hall are a handful of Tigers playing.
Devan Downey, Carlos Powell, Rolando Howell and Brandon Wallace are a few of the featured professional guys who are on rosters.
“It gives everybody an opportunity to compete during the summer at a time when you are in the off-season,” Downey said. “As an athlete, you are missing that. But with the Pro-Am, it allows you to compete at the highest level with guys from all different age levels. It’s a great thing.”
Columbia and the state of South Carolina are becoming a hotbed for college recruiters, and that has allowed Rich to bring many elite high school talents to the league this year.
PJ Dozier (Spring Valley) competed in this weekend’s Top 100 NBA prospects camp in Virginia, but he is expected to fly back Sunday morning and play that afternoon. Seventh Woods (Hammond) will miss some games while playing for the USA Men’s U16 Basketball National Team, but he is expected to play in several games. Woods is competing in the FIBA Americas U16 tournament in Uruguay.
Other highly touted prep players, including LJ Peak (Gaffney) Marcus Stroman (Keenan), Tevin Mack (Dreher) and Ahmed Hill (Aquinas), also are participating.
Downey believes it’s a bonus for the young players to test their skills against players who have played at a high level.
“It gives them a chance to compete and see what they need to work on,” Downey said. “They are probably so much better than the average high school player, this gives them the chance to compete against players like us. It’s only going to get them better and hopefully motivate themselves better.”