Local basketball stars have a new summer league

The players said they see this league as a way to maintain their skills for their upcoming seasons and to reunite with their friends.

"It's great to be reunited with the guys I played with on the 1998 state championship team," said Thomas, who now plays professionally in Turkey. "I usually don't do this when I come home for the summer, but it's a great way to stay in shape."

"A lot of the guys we used to play against, we now get to play with," said Dagostino, who recently wrapped up a season in the British Basketball League that included winning the MVP award for leading the Sheffield Sharks to the BBL Cup title.

Convincing the players to participate in a start-up league was a simple process, said Van Wormer.

"The names started circulating, and the guys started talking," said Van Wormer. "It was a matter of talking to a few key people and getting them talking to other players."

Bye and Patriots' team captain Patrick O'Connor said they knew who they wanted on their teams, and it didn't take them long to get them.

"It wasn't hard at all," said O'Connor. "Everybody is from Schenectady, and everybody loves playing basketball at a high level."

Bye said landing Dagostino was his top priority.

"When I found out he was coming home, he was the first one I called," said Bye. "I may be the team captain, but we all know Dags is the real leader on this team."

The good news for area basketball fans is that they can see Dagostino, Thomas and the rest of the CDBA's players for free. Games continue on Monday and Thursday evenings through July 16, and the playoffs take place July 21, 25 and 29.

Van Wormer said he hopes to make the Raise Your Level Invitational an annual event that could be " on a smaller scale " like some of the other major summer basketball leagues in the United States.

"We have our own identity in the Capital District," said Van Wormer. "We're not like New York City [with its Rucker Park league], but at the end of the day we have our own identity. Hopefully one day, we can compete with the summer leagues in New York City in attracting talent.

"The reputation is building little by little, and that's what we want," he added.""

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