The time has come for the Bluff City Classic, Memphis' premier summer basketball league featuring a balanced mixture of NBA players, college athletes and overseas greats. And it has new faces and a new home – the gym floor at The LeMoyne-Owen College.
Marresse Speights, Memphis Grizzlies' center and power forward, got into mix Wednesday (June 27 as the Classic moves through week two.
"I only finished with 14 points," Speights said after the game.
Make that 35 points, with 13 rebounds – a double-double akin to performances he turned in during his first season with the Grizzlies.
"It was a good experience," said Speights, who headed back to his hometown in Florida after the Grizz season concluded with a first-round exit in the playoffs.
"I'd heard about the Bluff City Classic before hand from different people and I wanted to play," said Speights. "A lot of people in the gym came out to see us play basketball."
Speights' eagerness to play in the summer league was well received by Bluff City Classic organizer, Stanley Blue.
"I talked to Marresse during the Grizz Gala and told him about the league," Blue said. "He said he had heard about it and was interested in playing. He called me last night (June 26) and told me he would be in town and asked me if he could play. I told him we'd be happy to have him."
Memphis Grizzlies guard Lester Hudson, a Memphis native, played in game one of the men's league on Wednesday.
"I love playing basketball in my city," Hudson said. "I just go out and do my best. It's a great league."
Grizz star forward Rudy Gay and teammate Josh Selby kicked the series off on June 19. Native Memphian Thaddeus Young of the Philadelphia 76ers was also a part of week one.
For years, the Bluff City Classic was held at Southwest Tennessee Community College. Although LeMoyne is a smaller venue, Blue is pleased with the outcome and thankful that the college agreed to host this year's games.
"Southwest has been good to us for almost 20 years," Blue said. "We were trying to negotiate with Memphis City Schools to get a larger venue. When they finally agreed to allow us to do it, they hit us with a $35,000 price tag, which we couldn't afford.
"So we were scrambling at the last minute to try to find a location," said Blue. "Southwest had already committed to some AAU games and some other tournaments... LeMoyne-Owen opened their arms to us and allowed us to come in so we could have a league."
Games will be played every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night through August and admission is free.