Summer-league play tunes UW up for hoops season

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SEATTLE — Cliff Shelton needed three weeks and nearly a dozen summer-league games before making a prediction about the Washington men’s basketball team.

“I like Andrew Andrews,” said the lifelong UW fan who moved to Issaquah after living outside the state for more than two decades. “He’s going to be a player.”

Like many fans who attended the North Seattle Community College Summer League games, Shelton wanted to watch the Huskies play alongside college and pro players from the Seattle area.

The younger UW players, guys like Andrews and Jernard Jarreau — freshmen who redshirted last season — drew the most interest.

“I’m looking for Pac-12 talent, not Pac-12 quality basketball,” Shelton said. “It’s summer league and it’s pretty loose, but you can see some individual talent.

“It’s really ratty, but it’s absolutely great to see some of these players up close. As I told my brother, you can hear them sweat. It’s great to see some of the young players that I haven’t seen.”

The small gym at North Seattle CC, which seats about 300, is much more intimate than the 10,000-seat Alaska Airlines Arena, and the setting is one of the appeals of the summer league.

Fans also enjoy watching players develop during the offseason and get a thrill from the idea that they were there when a player broke through to the next level.

A year ago, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. were highlight performers at North Seattle CC before starring at Washington. Both were taken in the first round of the NBA draft this year.

Over the past couple months, Andrews, senior guard Abdul Gaddy and Mark McLaughlin, Washington’s newcomer who quit the team last week, have been three of the fan favorites.

It remains to be seen if the UW players can parlay a solid showing in the summer into a successful season for the Huskies.

Still, Gaddy sees a benefit to playing in the summer league.

“You’re just trying to win every time and that just builds up, so when the season comes, that’s how you play,” he said. “You compete in practice. You compete and want to win and that carries over into the game.”

The scarcity of competition has allowed the North Seattle CC summer league to develop into a fixture on the Seattle summer hoops scene.

Cliff Brown, who started the league six years ago, saw a spike in interest and attendance two years ago when the league moved to North Seattle CC and secured a commitment from UW players.

“It’s been a very successful season for us,” he said. “One of the biggest things we wanted to do was to make it fan friendly, and we’ve succeeded with that.”

With officials on the floor, fans in the stands, coaches and clock operators on the sideline, and refreshments on sale, the games provide a facsimile of what players can expect during the season.

“Compared to a real game, it’s not a fair comparison,” UW senior guard Scott Suggs said. “It would be a lot more effort put into it if we were playing a real game.

“But in the final minutes, guys get competitive. You forget it’s summer league and you just want to win.”

Huskies CJ Wilcox, Shawn Kemp Jr., Desmond Simmons, Hikeem Stewart and Martin Breunig also played in the league, as did former Washington standouts Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning.

Rainier Beach star Anrio Adams, who will play at Kansas, also played.

Seattle University supplied several players, including Sterling Carter, D’Vonne Pickett Jr. and Isiah Umipig.

Co-director Marvena Kemp hopes to grow the league next year.

“I want to recruit some of the other schools that heard about us and came to watch,” she said. “If we pull them into what we have, it will be great.

“A couple of times I had calls from some of the NBA, and Cliff and I will have to talk to see if that’s something we really want to do.”

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