In 2019, the Hampton Roads 7 Cities Pro-Am basketball league celebrated its 15th season.
But then COVID hit and everything came to a screeching halt.
James L. Flood Jr., the CEO and league operator, wondered if the league would ever continue.
But then this year, he decided to start it back up again.
“At first, I was a little hesitant about whether the people were going to come back,” he said last week as he watched teams compete. “But as I thought about the success we’ve had over the years and the stability that we’ve created, I just figured, ‘Hey, let’s see how the first weekend goes.’ And they came out and showed up. It’s been consistent every week. So, I’m definitely proud that the community has come out and supported what we’re doing.”
On Sunday, the league will hold a six-team, one-day championship tournament at Norview High in Norfolk.
Harvey Lindsay will face the Playmakers at noon, followed by Love Yours against the Langley Raptors at 1:15 p.m. In the semifinals, Next Season will play the winner of Harvey Lindsay-Playmakers at 2:45, and Rich Lyfe will play the winner of Love Yours-Langley Raptors at 3:45. The championship game is set for 5 p.m.
Flood is glad to see the league finish its 16th season, but said it wouldn’t be possible without numerous volunteers, including Eric Rogers, sponsors, coaches, players, referees and fans.
Some of this season’s stars have included pro Briante Weber (Great Bridge High/VCU), Norfolk State standout Joe Bryant Jr. (Lake Taylor High), Norfolk State freshman guard George Beale Jr. (King’s Fork High), Virginia guard Chase Coleman (Maury), recent Hofstra graduate Jalen Ray (Hampton High) and Longwood forward Michael Christmas (Landstown High). Bryant was named the MEAC Player of the Year and the MEAC Tournament MVP last season.
“We are really excited to be back. The fans and players really missed the action, and it has showed through the turnout we’ve had,” Flood said. “It’s been a rough two years with what’s been happening with COVID around the country, and we wanted to make sure it was safe to return.
“I missed interacting with the players who participate, as well as seeing the community support us again after the layoff,” he added. “The fans and coaches have been very appreciative and supportive.”
Flood said there is one thing missing from this season.
“The one thing we all miss is our voice,” he said, “Mr. Jackie Bowe.”
Bowe, 71, died last November after a 50-year career of announcing Norfolk State football and basketball games, MEAC and CIAA tournaments and even the NCAA Final Four. He was the first African American to serve as public-address announcer for the Division I basketball Final Four, from 1999 to 2003.
Flood said Bowe’s death has definitely left a void. He plans to find someone else, but knows Bowe is irreplaceable.
For now, though, the games must go on as a new champion will be crowned Sunday.