It’s a staggering number.
The Neepawa Basketball League began its fourth season this past Saturday with an opening ceremonies at NACI and welcomed a record number of both teams and players into the 2013-14 season.
A total of 22 teams and over 310 players will be taking part.
“This is really a surprise for us,” league co-chair Ronald Santos explained. “There were only six teams the first year. We didn’t think the league would get this big.”
In fact, the league is so big now the organizers had to break it into two leagues.
“The League” will be a two-division, 16-team league featuring the more competitive teams. Meanwhile, organizers added a “D-League” with six teams this year to accommodate its older players.
“D-League usually is for younger players and is called the ‘Developmental League’,” co-chair Rex Rommel Toledo explained. “But we joke and call ours the ‘Damaged League’.”
In the 16-team top league there are 12 Neepawa teams with Filipino-based rosters and two with Canadian-based players. The league has also expanded its out-of-town teams by keeping the Portage Beermen in the league for a second consecutive year, as well as adding a team from Hamiota.
“It’s good to have these teams,” Toledo explained. “And Dauphin was interested in joining this year but the scheduling didn’t work. They said they’d join next year.”
The league expands, the organization of it grows as well.
Joining the two co-chairs is a committee of about a dozen players that will alternate - in pairs - the organization of each weekend of games.
A referee’s committee chaired by Junel Yosuico has been formed to ensure enough officials for each weekend.
Games will be played all weekend at the NACI gym, every weekend the gym is available, with the schedule expected to feature two Friday, five Saturday and four Sunday games weekly.
The teams in “The League” have been split into two divisions for this year - chosen randomly by a draw out of a hat at the opening ceremonies - and playoffs are expected to begin around February/March.
“There is lots to do,” Santos noted with a chuckle.
But the extra teams and work isn’t overwhelming for the organizers.
In fact, while the NBL may already be one of the largest organized adult sports leagues in Neepawa’s history, Toledo and Santos foresee the league continuing to grow as more people immigrate to the community through HyLife Foods employment, and other out-of-town teams become interested in joining.
“We want everyone to be able to stay active,” Santos explained. “This is why we added the D-league, so senior players can have the exercise and be involved in the basketball, too. Next year, if more people want to play, we’ll accept everybody.”
“Maybe next year, we’ll have 30-plus teams,” Toledo added with a chuckle.
Seven games were played on the opening weekend, and the season is scheduled to continue this weekend at NACI.