ICE veterans discuss league impact

Thirteen Muncie Central high school basketball players gathered behind the registration table as volunteer staff during the 2020 ICE League Draft Day, talking with an ease and comradery that only years of friendship and being teammates can produce. Two common threads tie this group together: a love of the game and an appreciation for the ICE League.
Not too many years ago, these thirteen once stood on the other side of the registration table during a time when they were middle school students hoping to gain a spot in what was a new academic-based league for the Muncie community.
Today, years later, they stand taller and wiser, offering a perspective on the League that only they can as veterans of the experience. As they stand together in a semi-circle before entering the Muncie Central gym to lead middle school students in the same Draft Day drills they once executed, their friendly talk with one another becomes more serious as they answer how they have seen the ICE League impacting students.
They answer quickly, genuinely, and with energy:
“It gives kids confidence.”
“It gives all kids the opportunity to play.”
“It helps students who aren’t already on a team stay motivated to keep their grades up.”
“At the end of the 8th-grade year, some students received scholarship money for having the best grades and that was good.”
“It encourages you to do your best and do the best you can in school and basketball.”
More answers start to come as the gym doors open, signaling its time to launch Draft Day. They pass through the doors and onto the court as the role models they have become to face the younger students who are watching them from the bleachers awaiting their instructions.

Sights from Boys’ 2020 Draft Day Registration

ICE League launches its sixth season

The sixth season of Muncie’s Inner City Educational (ICE) League has arrived with the League’s opening event — Draft Day. This afternoon, students will have the opportunity to try out for one of 88 positions within the academically based basketball League. The League is divided into two divisions — boys and girls — and is a League offered cost free to Muncie and Burris middle school students.
“Year 6 feels like Year 1 with the anticipation of ‘What’s going to happen today?” ICE League Co-Commissioner Tom Lyon said in the minutes before afternoon registration opened at Muncie Central High School.
ICE League Co-Commissioner Jon Anderson has spent the past several weeks in schools recruiting middle school students to come out for tryouts on Draft Day.
“There have been two levels of excitement,” Anderson said of the 7th and 8th graders he has spoken with at local schools. “I’ve talked with the 8th-grade kids who have been in the ICE League who nod their heads in awareness because they know the expectations and they know their GPAs. And then there are the 7th graders who are new to the ICE League, beginning to know about their GPAs, and are excited to be a part of it.”

ICE League awards 2 champions, 3 MVPs, and $6,000 in scholarships

Twelve ICE League Academic All-Stars earned $6,000 in scholarships Thursday, surrounded by their League teammates, coaches, fans, family, and friends at the fifth annual ICE League championship tournament.

The foundation of the innovative Inner City Educational League is academics. Students must maintain a 2.5 or higher GPA to fully participate and to be eligible for the season awards. The basketball championship tournament, with the semifinal round on Wednesday, March 20, at Northside Middle School, and the finals on Thursday, March 21, at Muncie Central High School, was the culmination of a six-week season.

The ICE League mission is to utilize sports and other activities to connect students and their parents to positive educational, healthy living and career pathway opportunities.

“We started with a good set of coaches who had a good understanding of the League,” said Project Leadership ICE League Coordinator Kaye Harrell as she was reminiscing about Season 5. “They made the whole League a little better.”

Those 16 coaches include ICE League Ross Center Boys’ Coach Darrick Lee. “The League has a great purpose,” said Lee, who has coached as a part of the League since its inception five years ago. Lee also coaches for Muncie Central’s freshmen boys’ basketball team and has the unique perspective of seeing the impact the ICE League, designed for middle school students, has on student athletes when they advance to high school. “I see a lot of success at the high school level because of the ICE League,” Lee said. “There’s a stronger focus on grades and quality of play.”

Student athletes’ participation in the ICE League puts students in a position to be successful both in the classroom and on the court, Lee said. “It’s instilled early in the ICE League,” he added. Other benefits of the League for the Muncie coach include getting the opportunity to meet Burris families. Both Muncie Community Schools and Burris Laboratory School participate in the academic-based League. “I’m thankful for this great experience and have loved every minute of it,” Lee said.

The six-week ICE League season seemed to fly by for ICE League YMCA Boys’ Coach Chris Munchel. “It’s gone really quickly, and we’ve needed to learn quickly,” Munchel said. Three areas of focus for his team: Athletics, character and grades. “We’re working on doing the things that are making better young men in the classroom,” said Munchel of the League where students’ time playing on the court is determined by their grade point averages. Students must have a minimum 2.5 GPA to be eligible for four-quarter game play. “All of my players are four-quarter players except one,” said Munchel who added that student athletes who are a part of the ICE League can learn a lot from the athletic experience, such as being a team and supporting teammates. “It’s relates to the real world,” Munchel said. He hopes that the brief time getting to know the student athletes he coaches will become long-time connections. “I hope when I see the kids out in the community, they will feel a bond, come up to me and say, ‘Here’s how I’m doing,’” Munchel said. “This is not just a two-month connection.”

Tony Ivy, ICE League Ross Center Boys’ Assistant Coach, has seen the benefits of the ICE League through two lenses. The first is as a parent as both his son and daughter have been student athletes in the one-of-a-kind Muncie League. Now, Ivy is a coach in the League. Ivy, who gets up at 4 a.m. to put in a full work day, has one word to describe how he feels walking into an ICE League practice or game night: Re-energizing. “I would love to have had this League when I was growing up,” Ivy said. “It gives kids a chance to experience new things, even those who may not be as athletic.

ICE League parent Julia McGee has watched her daughter, Jalese, play for three years in the League as a 6th, 7th, and 8th grader. She is quick to describe her observations about the innovative League that started in Muncie through the vision of the Ball Brothers Foundation. “It’s very productive,” said McGee. “It includes girls and boys. It’s a skill builder. It’s a way for students to meet new friends. There’s an emphasis on grades. It’s valuable.” McGee sees one more benefit: “It’s a connection between Ball State, and a nexus between the 9th through 12th-grade students who lend a hand to help at ICE League events.” The focus on basketball is a plus, too, said McGee who added: “It goes with the theme of the state. We’re Hoosiers, and Hoosiers love basketball.”

8TH-GRADE SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS AWARD STUDENTS FOR ACADEMICS

At the championship games Thursday night, the eighth-grade ICE League players with the highest GPAs were awarded $6,000 total in scholarships, which will be held by ICE League partners until the students graduate from high school. The scholarships will then be dispersed directly to the college or university the students attend.

The eighth-grade 2019 ICE League Academic All-Stars for the girls’ teams are:

  • Faith Shroll, Ross Center, $1000
  • Madison Cook, YMCA, $500
  • Charity Wright, Ross Center, $500
  • Molly Davis, Ross Center, $500
  • Brooklyn Clemens, Ross Center, $250
  • Trinity Malone, Boys & Girls Club, $250

The eighth-grade 2019 ICE League Academic All-Stars for the boys’ teams are:

  • Cooper Durbin, Boys & Girls Club, $625
  • Aiden Franks, Boys & Girls Club, $625
  • Brian Whitley, Ross Center, $625
  • Colin McBride, Buley Center, $250
  • Zion Strong, YMCA, $250

GRADE ACADEMIC ALL-STAR AWARDS

In addition, 6th- and 7th-grade players in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions who were named Academic All-Stars received recognition plaques.

Girls’ award winners:

  • Faith Shroll, Ross, 4.0
  • Allison Bucar, Ross, 3.86
  • Madison Cook, YMCA, 3.857
  • Rene’e Deboy, YMCA, 3.857
  • Charity Wright, Ross, 3.857

Boys’ award winners:

  • Cooper Durbin, Boys & Girls Club, 4.0
  • Firas Elkhattabi, Boys & Girls Club, 4.0
  • Carter Fisher, YMCA, 4.0
  • Aiden Franks, Boys & Girls Club, 4.0
  • Willem Huelsenbeck, Ross, 4.0
  • Wesley Klinger, Boys & Girls Club, 4.0
  • Brian Whitley, Ross, 4.0

RON BONHAM MVP AWARDS

For the fifth straight year, Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler walked onto the ICE League Championship Court Thursday to bestow one of the League’s highest honors: the Mayor’s Trophy for the League’s Championship teams. “I love to watch the kids as I hand off those trophies,” Tyler said. One other aspect of the academic-based League that the mayor likes to see: students’ GPA averages. “Sometimes we forget as we’re cheering on the players that they’re student athletes,” Tyler said.  One of the most special moments of ICE League Championship game night for Tyler are the Most Valuable Players awards named in honor of Tyler’s childhood friend and Muncie basketball legend Ron Bonham. “I like to watch the players’ faces as Bonham’s biography is being read and see their eyes widen and go, ‘Wow.’” The irony, he added, is that Championship night is the first time many of the players have likely heard of the former Indiana Mr. Basketball and professional Boston Celtics player. “He was the leading scorer for Muncie Central and that was 50 some years ago,” Tyler said.

One player from each division was named the Ron Bonham MVP for the season.

The award is named for Muncie Central Bearcat player Ron Bonham who played from 1958 through 1960 and is, arguably, considered Central’s greatest player. Bonham went on to play college basketball for the University of Cincinnati and was later drafted by the Boston Celtics, helping them win the NBA title his first year there. Bonham returned to live in Muncie and died last year.

The season MVP awards were voted on by League coaches. Players with 2.5 or higher GPA were eligible. The MVPs are:

  • Luke Wray
  • Daniel Harris
  • Gabby Douglass

CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES – RESULTS

Stephanie Good claimed a seat in the second row of the bleachers Thursday night to watch her daughter, Caivriona Davis, play in the girls’ championship game. Davis, an 8th-grader, is in her third year of ICE League play.

“We love the League,” Good said. “It keeps the kids focused on their grades and encourages them to do better with their grades. It’s great to be a part of it.”

The girls’ division started out the night with the Buley Center facing the Ross Center. In the first half, there was nothing but high energy — from the crowd to those on the sidelines and the players on the court. Every basket shot was a victory meant to be celebrated in this 2019 Championship Game. Half-time saw a 05-20 score, putting the Ross Center in the lead.

The second half started as energetically as the first with parents and coaches on their feet; every player playing their hearts out until the final buzzer. The final score of the first game of the night was Buley 12 and Ross 37, awarding the Ross Center as the 2019 Girls’ ICE League Champions.

Up next was the boys’ championship game. Luke Wray, focused on the ball, warmed up for the big game with the rest of his team. Wray, number 34, playing with the Buley Center emitted an aura of excitement as he prepared to take the court.

“I have enjoyed the involvement of everyone” Wray said, “I’ve learned a lot about teamwork and how to play as a team.”

The boys’ division soon tipped off with a face-off between the Buley Center and Boys & Girls Club of Muncie. As parents filled the bleachers, the players started the first half strong with energy and excitement filling the court. The second quarter ended with a 32-26 score, Buley taking the lead.

Quarter three started out with an enthusiastic crowd and even more lively court. The players, not letting a second go to waste, ended the game with a smile on their faces. As the final buzzer rang, the scoreboard read Buley 46- Boys & Girls Club 49, making the Boys & Girls Club the 2019 Boys’ ICE League Champions.

Muncie’s ICE League games are anticipated to return to the Muncie Fieldhouse in 2020 for Season 6. Mayor Dennis Tyler looks forward to it. “There’s no experience in the world that these kids can grasp like when they get to play in the Fieldhouse,” he said. And Tyler predicts that if those students are still for a moment as they stand in the middle of the historic Muncie Fieldhouse court, they may just get another experience. “They’ll hear all those ghosts from Bearcats past,” said Tyler and smiled.

ABOUT THE ICE LEAGUE

The ICE League is administered by Project Leadership and funded by the Ball Brothers Foundation. The League also is supported by Muncie Altrusa Foundation, and Friends of Muncie Endurathon. Partners include Muncie Community Schools and Burris Laboratory School as well as the four League centers – Boys & Girls Club, Buley Center, Ross Center and YMCA.

Project Leadership recognizes the importance of education and the vital role it plays in a community’s well-being. To that end, Project Leadership creates and accelerates Delaware County and regional initiatives and programs that promote educational attainment and degree completion. It strives to improve quality of life and the economic health of communities, ensuring low-income students achieve an education with value in the marketplace through college access/completion.

For more information, contact Project Leadership at 765-896-8616 or visit www.iceleague.org.

Boy’s Championship – Photo Gallery #2