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Mike Terry, Deseret News
Shannon Evans of Westminster College and her team prepare to play in their women's summer league.

MURRAY — Normally players like Shannon and Danielle Evans or Jessica and Michelle Carver would be on their own as far as staying sharp for the coming basketball season.

"We'd play pick-up ball or rec ball when we could find something," said Shannon Evans, who will be a senior at Westminster this fall.

This summer, however, the Evans sisters, both guards for the Griffins, have a league of their own. For the first time, collegiate women have a basketball league that allows them to play against each other in a legitimate, competitive league.

The 2008 Salt Lake City Women's Collegiate Summer League is certified by the NCAA and runs from mid-June to mid-August, with a tournament at the end. Former club and high school girls basketball coach Cedric Williams conceived the idea after talking with some of his former players about how difficult it was to stay in shape and remain sharp in the long, lazy days of summer.

"I kind of got burned out at coaching, but I couldn't sit still," he said.

Williams donates his time to the league, which is funded by the players, who each pay $85 to play in the league, which ends next week, Aug. 7 and 8, with a tournament. The last league game will be a day earlier, Wednesday, Aug. 6.

"It was kind of expensive, but it's worth it," said Shannon Evans, a Morgan High alumna. "It's great to have real games against other college players. I hope it makes it."

For the Carver sisters, it's a chance to play together again, as they play for different college teams. Jessica Carver is leading the league in scoring with about 24 points per game and is in the top five of every statistical category.

The experience Carver is gaining is exactly what her coach hoped she'd acquire by signing up.

"Any time they can get a chance to play with and against Division I players, they like to do it," said Dixie State coach Angela Christensen, who has two players in the league. "It's a chance to play with different kids, and you're not always beating up on your teammates."

Williams said men's players have pro-ams to keep their skills sharp, but traditionally local women college players "have nothing to do all summer."

He ran the idea of a summer league past some college coaches, who were receptive to the idea, and he also found out it's not such a rare thing in other cities.

"I did some research and found out some other places have a league like this," he said. "There are a ton on the East Coast."

The league is especially helpful to players like Dani Hosking, of Davis High, and Amanda Farish, from Lone Peak, who graduated last year and will both begin their freshman season at Southern Utah University this fall.

"For those two, the experience to play against other college players is invaluable," said coach Steve Hodson. "The size, the physicality of the game. ... That's a big positive step in them getting a chance to play here."

In addition to keeping the players in shape, Hodson said it keeps them hungry to win.

"The other thing it does for all of them is help them keep that competitive edge," Hodson said. "We finish our season in March. They don't compete again until November. That's a long time not to be competing."

Snow College and Salt Lake Community College had enough players to field their own teams in the eight-team league. SLCC coach Betsy Specketer said all coaches did was pass on the information to their players.

"They were gung-ho about it," said Specketer. "We have summer workouts they're supposed to do, but we can't lead them through them. ... They love the league. There's a fee involved, and they have to pay it themselves, but they were way excited about playing. It's a totally different mind-set than just practicing. Any time kids have an opportunity to play, they're going to grow. Hopefully, the league will make it and maybe even expand."

The league games are played at Murray High, and Williams hopes the public will come out and support the women and the league. He also hopes to attract more players from local schools next year.

Williams keeps stats and standings, and the players take the competition seriously, even though they say they are enjoying playing with and against other college athletes.

"Of course we want to win," said Shannon Evans with a laugh.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com