NORTH ANDOVER — Why does a simple fall high school basketball league seem so much more important?
The simple answer? Because it is.
The slightly longer answer is this: Because the person running it, North Andover Youth Center executive director Rick Gorman, treats it like the NCAA treats March Madness.
The North Andover Fall Ball League is entering its ninth season, all the N.A. Youth Center. Gorman, a native of East Boston, and a life-long basketball junkee, at all levels, started the league in 2005, barely getting six teams.
In 2013, the league has ballooned to 14 teams — three games played on Mondays and four more on Tuesdays — including local high school basketball powers, Central Catholic, Andover, Lawrence and St. John’s Prep.
Over the first seven years, there were seven different league champs. Last year, Central Catholic, copped a second straight league title.
“We’re proud of the fact that there are a lot of talented teams in this league, that’s not one team winning it every year,” said Gorman, whose son, Michael, starred at Methuen High and now plays at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass. “We not only have all of the best teams in the Merrimack Valley, but we have St. John’s Prep, Westford and some of the best teams in New Hampshire with Londonderry, Pelham and Salem. It’s gotten to the point where schools are coming to me asking about playing here.”
As the league has developed, Gorman has added a nice touch every year, like “pizza days” for coaches or players or a “grab bag” for college coaches with information on each participating player.
In fact, speaking of college coaches, at last week’s games Bowdoin, Anna-Maria, Colby-Sawyer, Gordon, Daniel Webster, St. Joseph’s of Maine and Rivier were in attendance. In three weeks, there have been 19 schools overall, most from Div. 3.