A little over 12 months ago, Rob Elderton and two of his high school buddies were struggling to find players to fill out the rosters for a new basketball league they were setting up in their hometown of Shelburne, Vt.
“We had some trouble finding 30 guys, so we had to go a little out of our class,” recalls Elderton. “We went with some kids that were really young and some that were a few years older than us.”
Boy does that feel like a long time ago.
Nowadays, kids are begging Elderton and his buddies to let them into the league. One kid wanted to join so badly that he offered to drive to Vermont from Long Island, N.Y. — a six-hour trip — twice a week just to play.
“He sounded pretty serious,” says Elderton. “He already had his team name picked out.”
What, you may wonder, makes Elderton’s league so special that people are willing to travel to a small town in Vermont just to hoop?
Well there’s the miniature ball, there’s the 60-foot court, and there’s the customized retro NBA jerseys. But what really sets Elderton’s league apart are the 8.5-foot hoops that give average Joes the chance to dunk like Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin (If you don’t believe me, check out the video footage below.).
Now in its second full season, the Mini Basketball League was founded in 2010 by Elderton and his two friends — Brian McClintock and Connor McCormick. After meeting on their high school’s freshmen basketball team, the trio began regularly playing games on a lowered hoop at a friend’s house.
Years later, the idea came to form an official league using the lowered hoops and a miniature ball.
“There’s definitely a learning curve that’s required to get a hang of it,” says Elderton of adjusting to the style of play required for the Mini Basketball League. “You have to become a little more crafty because there’s just not a lot of space, so some of the bigger guys, like myself, we have to adjust the way we play. It’s harder to get fast breaks going because everyone can get down the court so fast.”
While the group struggled to find participants for its inaugural season, word quickly spread among friends in the area, and the league was forced to expand from 10 to 14 teams for its second season.
Then everything got a whole lot crazier.
Two weeks ago, video footage from the Mini Basketball League was posted on The Basketball Jones, and interest in the league spiked.
“It was a little crazy,” says Elderton. “We were just doing this for fun. When (The Basketball Jones) posted it, our facebook page got like 300 likes in about three days, and kids from all over the country were begging for us to start a league in their town.”
Soon enough, newspaper reporters were calling and ESPN was asking for permission to air footage from the league on SportsNation.
All the positive attention got Elderton, McClintock, and McCormick — all of whom are entering their final year of college — rethinking their futures. The trio is now talking about trying to secure sponsorships and traveling around the country hosting mini basketball tournaments.
“Since it’s gotten so popular,” says Elderton, “me and Brian and Connor have talked about maybe trying to make a career out of this, which would be pretty sweet.”
Would you join a mini basketball league?
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