The Dru Joyce Summer League has featured some of the area’s best local basketball talent since it began in 2010. Two years ago, reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving came through to compete against Northeast Ohio’s finest and I was there to see it.
This year, former NBA veteran and Cleveland basketball legend Earl Boykins played in the summer session, along with overseas pros Chet Mason, Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce III, and others.
On Monday, I caught up with LeBron James’ high school teammate to talk about the success of his league while we watched the semifinal action at the Word Church in Warrensville.
“It’s been great,” Dru Joyce III said. “We’re in our fourth year now and looking to build on it moving forward into next summer. I partner with Chris Walker and Ozell Dobbins from FunGames Sports on the league and they do a great job. They handle the day-to-day stuff and really do a good job of gathering the teams and bringing it to a high, competitive level.”
This past season, Joyce was the starting point guard for EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Germany. He played alongside Ricky Paulding from the University of Missouri who was a second round draft pick of the Detroit Pistons in 2004.
The University of Akron product averaged 7.7 points and 4.1 assists while logging 26 minutes per night for his German squad.
“Last year went well,” he said. “I had a good season. My team played all the way to the semifinals of the playoffs. We didn’t win the championship this year, but overall we had some success. I’m going back overseas next year to continue my career but I haven’t decided which team I’ll be signing with yet.”
After returning home, Joyce joined forces with his former high school and college teammate, Romeo Travis, for a youth basketball camp they combined to present in Akron.
“We just finished our Give-and-Go Basketball Camp and it went well,” Joyce added. “We had a good turnout of kids for our first camp. We really enjoyed working with the youth in Akron and we’re looking forward to next summer.”
Despite everything he’s had going on, though, all Joyce was asked about earlier this month was what his friend LeBron planned to do next season. He never actually knew the answer until he read it in Sports Illustrated, but that didn’t stop every person Joyce encountered from asking him anyway.
“It was all pretty random,” Joyce joked about those weeks leading up to LeBron’s decision. “People were walking up to me everywhere I went just saying, ‘Hey, where’s he going?’ People I didn’t even know. But I just told them I didn’t know what he was going to do, because I really didn’t.”
Now that James has announced his return to the Cavaliers, things are better for Joyce and everybody else around here.
“In the community in general, it’s just a very good time for Northeast Ohio,” Joyce said of the impact of LeBron’s return. “In Akron and in the Cleveland area, especially the basketball community, everybody is really excited for the upcoming sports year. It’s going to be a great time for Northeast Ohio.”
The championship of the Dru Joyce Summer League will be played this Wednesday, July 30, at 8 p.m. Admission is free and more details can be found at FunGames Sports.
Photo: Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images