By: Ruby Arani/ GCU Staff
If there isn’t an opportunity, make one.
Opportunities to expand women’s club basketball here in Arizona have been sporadic at times. That problem was affecting the Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Basketball program much of last year as they battled last-minute cancellations to their schedule by several opponents. GCU Club Sports saw the problem facing the dynamic of women’s club basketball and wanted to do something to change it. Their answer? The Arizona Women’s Basketball League (AWBL).
The AWBL’s first season will feature five teams: Arizona Christian University, Bella Vista Prep, Benedictine University and a pair of teams from GCU. The AWBL’s league schedule will consist of a 12 games schedule to be played from December until March-with the top team to be crowned as the first-ever AWBL Champion.
GCU Club Sports officials hope the AWBL will be a benchmark for future women’s club basketball leagues.
“The National Club Basketball Association (NCBBA) doesn’t offer women’s club basketball yet, even though they are interested in beginning a women’s league, but it’s up to us to get it started with the AWBL,” said GCU Club Sports Assistant Director Mark Nelson. “The AWBL will be a way to spark interest, have a concrete league, get some teams playing and hopefully continue to grow.”
For the AWBL’s first year as a league, the one word that is used to describe league expectations is, “consistent”.
“Like any year, we want to make sure things are consistent,” said GCU Club Sports Information Director Jim Howell. “We asked the teams involved if they wanted to use their home court, but many of the teams said they don’t have a necessarily reliable venue. They wanted a venue that is solid and consistent. With all the facilities here at GCU, it lends itself to us-especially with the opening of the new Canyon Activity Center (in January).”
As the inaguraul season approaches for the AWBL, high goals have been set.
“AWBL is going to be huge for the GCU Club Sports Program,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Kyle Speed. “We aren’t just growing women’s club basketball here at GCU but to helping grow women’s club basketball here in Arizona. The AWBL will attract more teams and push for other universities in the state to create their own women’s club basketball programs.”
“We ultimately want to grow and expand the number of teams in the league,” said Howell. “It would be great to see the league go from five teams to eight, ten and twelve teams in the future.”
Officials would love to see the new facility become a fulcrum for the expansion.
“The Canyon Activity Center helps us become a basketball destination because we have the ability to host games and tournaments and so forth,” said Nelson. “In the big picture, we want to expand our Arizona league into a NCBBA format and have a national league and qualifier. If the AWBL can show stability and growth, the NCBBA would likely start their own women’s basketball league.”
The AWBL will kick off its inaugural season with a pair of games this Saturday, December 1 at the GCU Lopes Performance Center. Both of GCU’s teams will be in action, with GCU Purple facing Benedictine, and GCU White taking on Arizona Christian on separate courts at the same time. Tipoff for both games is scheduled for 5 pm, and admission is FREE.
Interested in the new AWBL? Want more information? Contact Assistant Director Mark Nelson today!