It’s genesis was a handful of basketball players who played pickup games twice a week at the Hockessin Athletic Club. Five years later, the HAC Adult Basketball League has morphed into what players describe as a powerhouse, featuring more than 30 teams, two
divisions, an All-Star weekend, year-round competition, a dedicated Facebook page and league website that lists player statistics for each game, photos of most games and game videos on YouTube. If that weren’t enough, there is even a talk show with hosts discussing team match-ups, like ESPN’s SportsCenter. Players travel from New Jersey, Maryland, Chester (Pa.) and Philadelphia – some driving more than an hour – to play in the once-a-week basketball games.
“I would say this league is an A,” said Timon Cartwright, captain of The B.E.S.T. Squad (Brothers Establishing Success Together) squad. “The next-best league is a B-minus and the rest are all C’s. That is based on the level of competition, professionalism and the referees that they hire. The staff actually takes time to get to know the players. They pay attention to the league and it’s just not about money. It’s about community growth among the basketball community.”
Dave Mulvena, HAC sports manager, attributes the league’s success to the staff, which continually looks for ways to improve the league.
“[The league] gives players more to do,” Mulvena said. “In other leagues, you play the game. You leave and come back a week later and you play again. Our league has something that players can stay involved in throughout the week.”
The league runs for most of the year, with each season lasting 12 to 14 weeks. Each team plays eight games. And every team makes the playoffs. Game day is Sunday, when the action is nonstop at two sites, HAC and three courts at The Tatnall School, from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. A typical Sunday features 16 games played.
“It helps that the games are on Sunday nights because most of us have jobs,” said Paris Hines Jr., who plays for ACC. “Most of us are off on weekends or we work early. The games are later and it’s better for all of us.”
Mulvena said the league began with a handful of HAC members who played pickup basketball games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They wanted to start a league.
In spring 2009, the league started with four teams of eight players each. Players’ skills were evaluated and they were assigned to teams to create the best competitive situation.
“That’s how we did it the first three seasons, because we wanted to make the teams as even as possible,” Mulvena said.
The league initially was open only to HAC members. Mulvena said he wanted to build structure into the league before opening it up to the public. He has attempted to start a women’s basketball league, but it has not generated enough interest although women have played in the men’s league.
In August 2010, Mark London joined HAC’s staff and became a strong advocate for including non-members in the league. London had played basketball while attending Delaware Technical Community College.
“I wanted to have a good basketball league for years to come,” said London, who also played basketball overseas. “This was the ultimate place. I wanted to do it because I was doing something for the community and it was helping out the company, too.”
When the league opened to non-members in spring 2011, the number of teams jumped to
By fall 2012, there were 18 teams, divided into two divisions based on skill level. The A division is comprised of players who have had some college or semi-professional experience. The B division is the amateur division, designed for recreational players. The league’s growth led to adding a second site for games.
The league ballooned to 28 teams in fall 2013 and a third season was added. By the winter 2014 season, 32 teams had registered for the league. Mulvena said if the league expands beyond 32 teams, a third site would be needed to fit in all the games.
Mulvena attributes much of the league’s growth to word-of-mouth following the addition of a team with which London was involved, The Shooters Club. The team consisted of players known for their shooting ability who were longtime friends and frequently played together in other leagues. When other teams heard The Shooters Club was part of the HAC league, they wanted to join, too.
Originally called Warriors for Christ, the team consisted mostly of a group of guys who had known each other from childhood.
“We played at the Kennett Y in 2005,’’ London said. “We got here [HAC] in 2010 and some of the players wanted to change it up a bit.”
The team’s name was shortened to Warriors and later changed to The Shooters Club after London took over as the primary organizer.
“It was pretty crazy how successful we were in every league,” London recalled. “I remember in 2012 we played in between 10 to 12 tournaments and leagues and won every one. We did not lose at all.”
The Shooters Club holds several HAC league records: the longest winning streak, 32 consecutive games over a three-year span; the first team to score 100 points in one game; the first team with a player recording a triple double and the only team to win three
London said the team was so successful that it attracted sponsors.
“We would come in every week with T-shirts, shooting [warmup] shirts or jerseys with different [company] names on them,’’ London said.
When the team finally lost during the winter 2013 season, London said it actually was beneficial for the league.
“It reminded me of when you are in college,” London said. “When we lost, everyone literally ran onto the court and jumped up and down for the other team.”
London said the team disbanded last summer after a series of life changes hit The Shooters Club. Some members moved out of state, some got married and others had children.
“I think this is one of the best leagues I have ever played in,” said London, who still plays in the league. “You can see your stats. And I think that is huge. It’s affordable. And the idea of the videos, to me, was genius.”
London’s team truly became a dynasty, Mulvena said.“The Shooters Club set the bar for every other team that comes into the league,”.
The result is a league that is filled with strong teams and highly skilled players. Among the HAC league’s biggest selling points is the opportunity to play hard-fought games every week.
“The level of competition is higher,” said Mike Hubbard, a member of Drunk Monkeys. “I have played in a lot of leagues. To me, this is the best one.”
Mulvena said the HAC staff and players are always devising ideas to improve the league.
For example, HAC created a Facebook page to communicate with players and to promote the league. Photos are taken at most games and posted on Facebook and the league website (www.hacadultbasketball.com). Players’ stats are tracked and listed on the website. A “game of the week” is videotaped and placed on YouTube. Weekly videos include recaps and previews of every game.
Near the end of each season, the league holds an All-Star event, which features a 3-point shooting competition, team shooting competition and all-star games featuring the top players from each division.
“None of the other leagues do anything like this,” said Wild Style’s Damian Ware, who has played in the league four seasons. “In the other leagues, you play and go home. This league has a lot of good teams in it. It’s a competitive league.’’
Mulvena said the next goal is to be able to videotape every game.
“Right now, they just hear about it,” Mulvena said of results from each game. “But I think if they had the chance to see highlights from each game, that would make it even more exciting.”