BY BARRY WONG
Imagine this: former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Anthony Marshall leads a fast break and finds incoming Rebel Ben Carter for a bucket. On the other end, top prep prospect and Bishop Gorman star Chase Jeter answers with a score in the post.
Well, that was reality during one June night of basketball for Desert Reign’s ProCity Summer League.
The league is the brainchild of Bjorn Berg, founder of the Desert Reign Foundation, a non-profit organization emphasizing healthy living through daily physical activity. Growing up in Minneapolis, Berg watched a similar league. He moved to Las Vegas nine years ago and started the league three years ago.
“This is the ideal situation because you can come in here and at no cost sit in the front row and literally be five or ten feet away from players,” Berg said.
Fans get to see unique collaborations on the court during most games. In the game previous to the one featuring Marshall, Carter and Jeter, UNLV great Wink Adams shared the floor with recent Rebel star Kevin Olekaibe. On the opposing team, Philadelphia 76ers guard Pierre Jackson suited up.
One trait links the league’s players. They’re all tied to Las Vegas, meaning they played high school basketball in the city or are former, current or incoming Runnin’ Rebels.
“Vegas is an underrated basketball town,” Carter, a Bishop Gorman alum, said. “There’s a lot of talent here.”
WATCH ANTHONY MARSHALL TALK ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES COMING HOME TO PLAY IN THE SUMMER IN VIDEO BELOW.
Marshall, a Mojave High School alum, looks at the league as a win-win for both players and fans. He gets to work on different aspects of his game in a competitive setting, and fans get to see familiar faces in action.
“When I was growing up, we didn’t have many things like this,” he said. “Having the opportunity to interact face-to-face with fans is very special.”
For the past two seasons, because of the large turnover on UNLV’s roster, the summer league is the first chance for many fans to see the newest Rebels in person. This year, incoming freshmen Dwayne Morgan, Goodluck Okonoboh and Jordan Cornish and incoming transfers Carter, Cody Doolin and Jerome Seagears have all seen time on the floor. Last year, Olekaibe and Roscoe Smith played in many games.
“I love the support from the local fans and the UNLV fans in general,” Carter said.
Watching fans and players interact is the highlight for Berg.
“As a player, you have to go over and sit in the stands or you have to go walk by the fans,” he said. “You get that person-to-person contact that is going by the wayside now.”
The fans have one final chance to both watch and interact. The Desert Reign ProCity Summer League wraps up tonight at Grant Sawyer Middle School. The first of two games tips off at 6:30 p.m.