The East Webster Wolverines are thankful more than ever to have a place to call home for basketball this summer.
After the tornado of April 27 destroyed their gym in Cumberland, it left the Wolverines having to get whatever practice time they could in at the old gym at Wood College.
With work needing to be done on the Wood College gym floor this summer, East Webster may not get the amount of work in necessary to prepare for the next season.
That's why the Wolverines plan to take advantage of the summer high school basketball league at the Starkville Sportsplex.
"It will be another good chance for us to get some game time because it would be hard (otherwise)," East Webster boys coach Corey Stidham said. "We've got a lot of work to do on the gym we're going to be in next year at Wood College. It gives us the chance to get on the floor and we very much need it because we're going to be young and very inexperienced. I've probably lost 85 percent of my scoring, rebounds and assists."
The Wolverines get on the court today at the Sportsplex gym with a game against Starkville Academy at 5 p.m.
SPRD assistant director of athletics Sammy Willcutt was happy to help the Wolverines any way he could after hearing about their loss in the storm.
"I talked with Corey the other day and expressed my concerns about what they are going through," Willcutt said. "He said, 'we're just going to pick up and keep going strong like we've always done,' and that's a credit to them."
Between high varsity boys and girls and junior varsity boys and girls teams, there will be 27 teams participating in the league, which is up from last year.
Immanuel Christian, West Lowndes, East Oktibbeha, West Oktibbeha, Starkville Academy, Oak Hill Academy, Heritage Academy, East Webster, Armstrong's 8th and 9th grade are all participating in the league.
"It's a great little deal they've got going there," Stidham said. "It matches local teams against good competition. They've got nice facilities and great hospitality. That's a great combination. If I had to do it at my place every week, it would be pretty hot without air conditioning."
Starkville Parks and Recreation provides officials, scorekeepers and clock operators.
All the teams have to do is show up, get on the court and play the game.
There will be eight games per night on the two courts at the Sportsplex. Games are scheduled for Tuesdays, Thursdays and some Fridays.
This is the third year for the league and Willcutt is proud to be a part of it.
"We'll try to get each varsity team 10 to 12 games and each junior high team around six games," Willcutt said. "It's a good experience and they get to play a lot of games and different competition that they sometimes don't play.
"It's a good atmosphere and learning experience for them. It keeps them busy in the summer. We enjoy doing it."
With the amount of teams and games, Willcutt said the league could last a little longer this year. Usually wrapping up around July 4, Willcutt anticipates it not being finished until the end of the first week of July.
Scheduling can present a challenge for Willcutt because of trying to work around other summer activities, but with the help of Sheila Coleman, the work gets done.
"You have so many requests from coaches that are going to team camps, individual camps and softball leagues for the girls that play softball so it's the hard thing to schedule all the sports we do," Willcutt said. "With all of those variables, you can't just go down the list. The coaches are real good about if somebody has something and they can't play, they'll find somebody that can take their place."
The SPRD debated charging $1 admission, but decided to go ahead and let the action be open to the public once again. A concession stand will be available.