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. He added that he looks forward to the ICE League’s return to the Muncie Fieldhouse in 2020. “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.
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 says. “It gives kids a chance to experience new things, even those who may not be as athletic.
“The League has a great purpose,” says ICE League Ross Center Boys’ Coach Darrick 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 says. “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 says. “It’s instilled early in the ICE League,” he adds. 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 says.