By Amanda Riddle
Arizona Daily Wildcat March 3, 1997
Local youth basketball league takes the court at McKale
The day before thousands of fans watched the Wildcats play the University of Washington in McKale Center, McKale hosted games for Tucson youth that attracted only a few hundred spectators but still made an impact on the students who were playing.
The Associated Students/University Learning Center Basketball League held its championship games in McKale Center Saturday, giving fifth- to eighth-graders throughout Tucson an opportunity to play on the Wildcats' home court.
"The league is very important for the community. ASUA doesn't do a lot for the community and this league is one of the best ways of getting kids on to the campus," said Jared Green, a political science sophomore. Green is the president of the league this year and was a volunteer coach last year.
About 25 University of Arizona students volunteered their time this year to be coaches and role models to the children and teach them about college, said Green, a candidate for the ASUA Senate.
Undergraduate Sen. Maile Weigele, commissioner of the league, said it made an impact on the players and she received positive feedback from everyone involved.
"It gave the kids an opportunity to hang out on campus and to have role models other than their parents. It showed them that college is a place where they want to be," Weigele said.
Lolly Gonzalez, family studies junior, volunteered at least three days a week to coach one of the girls' teams.
Gonzalez said her players asked her questions about college, came to a women's basketball game and discussed their grades with her and the other coaches.
"Many of these kids don't have role models that will tell them they are worthwhile people," Gonzalez said.
The basketball league was started in 1995 by former Undergraduate Sen. Gahl Leddel.
Leddel said a lot of the youths came from underprivileged areas and it was good for them to meet UA students who can serve as mentors to them.
Green said about 60 students volunteered this year, including the 25 coaches, and about 140 fifth to eighth-graders played in the league.
It costs around $6,000 to run the league each year, which is subsidized through donations and ASUA funding, Weigele said.
The Undergraduate Senate allocated $2,500, the Tucson Conquistadores donated $2,170 and the Residence Hall Association donated $880, she said.
Ty Lawson, chemistry senior and coach for one of the fifth- and sixth-grade boys' teams, said one of the purposes of the league is for the coaches to be positive influences on the players.
"We tried to keep them playing with a good attitude, and teamwork was something we stressed," he said.
Sixth-grader Luis Ruvalcaba played in the championship game on Lawson's team.
He said the student coaches taught them a lot about teamwork and not criticizing the other teams.
The league began with tryouts on Jan. 25 and ran through March 1. For three Saturdays in February, the youths played in Bear Down Gym.
Jesse Hargrove, assistant dean for African American student affairs, and Salomon Baldenegro, assistant dean for Chicano/Hispano student affairs, spoke to the players in the Memorial Student Union Arizona Ballroom Feb. 15 about the importance of attending college.
Luis' mother, Marie Ruvalcaba, said they still talk about the speakers.
"The whole idea of the program appealed to me. Being around the university made a positive impact on the kids and the coaches were really good role models for them," Ruvalcaba said.