By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. After I honored the women in my life who are mothers, I went to the South End Community Center to watch some action from the Newkirk Draft League (NDL).
I got to Scibelli Gym for the last two games: Bottomline Sports vs. Team GEE and Team VAZ vs. Team PACE.
The NDL was founded by Springfield native Eric Newkirk. He was a standout player at Central HS.
There are two divisions in the NDL: A Division and B Division.
The NDL has basketball talent from the 1990s up to this generation. There are approximately 200 players in the NDL.
On Facebook today, there have been big trades that have left some players confused and has fans excited.
Yesterday, I watched both games but I followed the VAZ vs. PACE game more closely.
Team PACE was ahead for most of the game. They were led by former Chicopee HS Guard Darrick Boyd. He scored 17 points on Sunday. Shaq Pace had 10 points.
Team VAZ made a comeback in the second half. The comeback was led by former Amherst Guard/Forward Devonte McCall. McCall scored 18 points for Team VAZ. Shakim Grant-Jace had 17 points. SGJ hit three 3s in the second half.
Team VAZ beat Team PACE 53-49.
I spoke with the NDL founder after the last game ended.
How did you feel about the gameplay today?
“I thought we had some good games today. That last one was a chippy game, Team PACE vs Team VAZ. Both teams have some passionate players who have some personal side bets [on the line]. That makes the game a lot more physical and chippier than most games”.
What made you create the Newkirk Draft League, the NDL?
“I feel like when it comes to the ‘Birthplace of Basketball’, there are a lot of tight knit groups. So a lot guys play on the same teams so [some leagues] aren’t competitive. 3 Pro guys playing on one team makes it kinda hard to keep the competition of leagues goin’. So what I did, I tried to split everybody up to get it as competitive as possible so everyone that comes gets a workout in. I look at it like - if you split the town up and give everyone an opportunity...make everything competitive for everybody”.
What has Wes Jackson meant to basketball in Springfield/Western Mass?
“Wes being family to me, he has meant so much. Adult teams to kids teams to coaching at Westfield [State] to coaching at the South End for as long as I’ve been playing basketball. The fact that he allowed us to use this gym and create this space for us means more to me than...without Wes we wouldn’t have [the] NDL...Wes is one of the older guys people trust”.
Some other 📝:
It was good to see Mike Vaz aka Mike Mike. He inspired everyone at Commerce and he is an inspiration now.
There was decent size crowd to watch the games. I imagine there will be more people in the coming weeks.
The passion mentioned above is 💯. If you can get there, 8 AM - 4 PM Sundays @ SECC.