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More than basketball
Rec league lifts players' skills, spirit
Calvary pic1
Jarron Crump looks to drain a layup during a recent Calvary Challenger League game at Calvary Temple Church in Turlock. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

When local pastor Rusty Lyons decided to work together with the people of Calvary Baptist Church back in 2006 to put together a basketball recreation league, he never imagined that the effort would meet with such success, driving players to transform their game on and off the court. 

Every Monday, the 10 teams that are part of the Calvary Baptist Challenger League get the opportunity to compete in what has quickly developed into a ‘top tier’ recreational league for basketball enthusiasts.

Lyons and the rest of the crew who have been part of the growth decided that this would be a fun event that people, not just from the church, but from the community could be involved in and enjoy the sport.

“One of the dreams I had as a pastor is that we would build some type of athletic league for our community where really good players could play,” he said.

There is no age limit for this league, which is perhaps one of the reasons that it has grown larger than anticipated.

Due to the success of this past spring season, the league has expanded its play into a summer season that is set to begin in mid-July.

“The last couple of years, as far as the level of talent, it has gone off the charts and this year has been the most competitive,” Lyons said. “When you see the way it has evolved over the last couple years it is great.”

The level of talent varies, with former local high school basketball standouts, Cal State Stanislaus alumni, young high school prospects and even community college players from out of state comprise the league.

All these age groups have come together to bring a level of play that the Challenger League has yet to see—until now.

“I am still looking into playing basketball, so I thought it would be just to stay in shape at first but I didn’t think it would be like this high level of competition. [It's]  fun and I like the fact that we're all like family helping each other out,” said Jarron Crump, who recently played at Columbia College in Sonora and is originally from Texas.

For some players, the faith-based league is a way to play the game and fellowship with other believers.

 “This league brought me here because of church. They all became like a family for us. For us to come to this church, it was more than basketball, it was us learning about life outside of basketball and we found this place we could call home,” said former CSU Stanislaus basketball player Ronnie Sawyer.

League director Chuck Fair understands that not all individuals have those religious beliefs, so he approaches every single player with a positive outlook and yearns to make them better people overall—for themselves—by showing support through good sportsmanship on and off the court, by not retaliating when frustration arises in the middle of a game.

 “We see so many competitors that their character gets compromised by their play and I see guys who call penalties on themselves, helping each other out. Some of the guys who started with the most challenging attitudes have walked away with big thanks for giving them a different perspective,” said Fair.

The official starting date for the summer rec league will be July 16. For more information, call 632-2391.