Roy Boone is doing his best to give Madison hoopheads a place to get their fix after the NBA Finals wrap up.
The fourth edition of the Roy Boone Summer League promises to bring together a cast of current and former pro and college basketball players with ties to the University of Wisconsin or Madison area high schools for games each Thursday night at Madison College. Guys like Wesley Matthews, Mike Wilkinson, Nimrod Hilliard IV and Jeronne Maymon have suited up for past seasons.
“I want to make this the place to be every Thursday night,” said Boone, who has built the league up from a weekly pickup game.
Boone, a 1997 graduate of Madison East High School who went on to play guard for Wisconsin during its 2000 Final Four run, fits organizing — and playing in — the league between his jobs with East High and the Dane County Juvenile Court. He was just promoted to associate head coach of the Madison College men’s basketball team.
How did the Roy Boone Summer League get started?
You want the long story?
It originally started at Goodman Community Center with me just having access to the gym and inviting friends to come play. It started with 30 guys and then pretty soon we had 60 guys in there trying to play open gym on one hoop. I had to figure out something, so I organized a league, split up into teams and I charged each guy $10 to cover referees.
Then I started reaching out to the UW alumni who were around. I had Trevon Hughes play a few games that first summer. That was big. Then I got Wquinton Smith, another UW alum. My goal was to try to have a league where it was all college and pro athletes along with a lot of my friends who I know can play and compete at a high level.
Two years ago, (Wisconsin assistant coach) Howard Moore came to one of the games and said, "You should get the UW guys to play in this." Once he said that, I was all over it. I contacted the NCAA to get approval and I got my wife on board as a partner to help me out and organize the stuff. Once she jumped on board, things really took off.
(Dallas Mavericks guard and Madison Memorial grad) Wesley Matthews has been there from day one, at Goodman up to this year, hopefully. He’s been a huge part of the league and I’m sure he draws a huge part of the crowd. I appreciate his play and support every year.
I went from Goodman to East High School to, now, Madison College. Opening night last year I had over 500 people in attendance. It’s a free event so it’s a good opportunity for kids to come and see these guys they’ve heard about. There’s an opportunity for fans who used to watch some of the local high school players like Jeronne Maymon — who was a Mr. Basketball at Memorial — see what he’s doing now, watch him play again. And to have kids there is a plus. I really enjoy that.
What’s the draw for the players?
It’s invite-only now. We have six teams, NCAA refs, uniforms and a nice gym.
I call everyone. I’m friends with a lot of these guys. At first, it was, "Hey, come play on my team, we’re gonna bust these guys!" Now the draw is pretty much just being there to compete against other college guys who are doing the same thing you’re doing. The other draw is that it’s fun.
When the Badgers jumped on board, that let everybody know this is a league I want to be in if I’m playing college ball or overseas.
And you run your own team in the league?
I’ve got guys like (former Badgers) Mike Wilkinson and Zach Morley and then we’ve got guys from my high school. Nimrod Hilliard, who was a Mr. Basketball, player of the year overseas one year. Chris Davis who was a national player of the year at Whitewater, won a national championship. I’ve got Reece Gaines’ little brother, Corvonn, who played in college (East Carolina). They say I stack my team, but we’re all old, so they should be running around us.
What’s the scene like at games? Are there still rivalries between the Madison guys?
Guys get on the court, they’re competitors. But it’s almost more fun to get on the court with your old teammates or guys who played after you or before you. I had pretty much a whole Memorial team. Tre Burnette, Jeronne Maymon, Tre Creamer, Tre Burnette’s little brother (Jabriel). So now their parents get to come and see both of their sons play together. That’s pretty cool.
Are you getting anything out of the experience you didn’t expect when you started?
Probably opening night, the support I get from the community, people who work at the places I work. Whenever I need something, people break their back to make sure it happens. Support I get for what I’m trying to do is awesome. It’s just a rec league, so to get people to come out and watch these guys play, that’s huge.
How do you like coaching at Madison College?
That’s what I always wanted to do, coach college basketball. I clicked with the guys right away. Being a former college and professional player, I had a lot of knowledge and experience I could push their way. I think the guys liked me being around.
Jeronne Maymon is also on that staff?
It’s funny; me and Jeronne see each other all day every day, because we work three jobs together now. We work at East High School together, we work in juvenile court with the county together and we coach together. We’ve become pretty close friends.
Getting Jeronne at Madison College was huge. He’s a huge asset with the energy he has brought to the locker room, the huddles. He’s got guys fired up. For one thing, he’s huge. He’s a giant. But he’s also been there, done that and his energy has guys wanting to go out there and play hard, do it right.
What do people need to know about the league?
It starts June 21 through August 2, every Thursday night. Games are at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Rosters will be set soon, and we’ll do a little countdown on Facebook.
All games this year are at Madison College. We loved playing at East High School, my old gym, but there wasn’t AC in there. It was kind of nice for the old men like me. I got warm quicker. But the UW guys need air conditioning.
Are you the senior guy in the league?
I've probably got everybody by about 10 years or more. Mike Wilkinson ain’t no spring turkey. Zach Morley, his back is going out every week. Keaton Nankivil had a little hip surgery, so he’s just getting back. But this year I’ve got (former Badger) Ryan Evans playing. Nobody knows that yet. I’m working on getting (former Badger) Alando Tucker to play, he’s back in town.
People say to me, "You could charge two bucks, three bucks, even a dollar!" That’s not what I want to do. I want this to be free, bring the family, have some popcorn.