“Equal pay for equal play” is the motto of the new Mixed Gender Basketball Association, which will showcase its unique format with a game between the Cyclones and the Scorpions July 27 at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
The game tips off at 6 p.m. and will feature former FMCC player Cordal Johnson and Gloversville’s Brice Gray. Tickets are $20.
Men and women play together — at the same time — in this new league, which was started by Dr. John Howard Jr., a former Cincinnati Bearcat and Harlem Globetrotter who later became a high school and college educator.
Unlike the old Roller Derby, where the men’s teams and women’s teams alternated each period, this league will bring men and women together both as teammates and opponents.
“It all started with Dr. Howard,” explained MGBA national director of basketball operations Heather Swart. “He had this fantastic female athlete who wanted to play on the guys’ team. There ended up being too much red tape, and that woman never got a chance to play with the guys. The following year, Pat Summit [former Tennessee women’s head coach] gave her a full ride. That’s how good she was.
“That situation gave Dr. Howard the idea of starting a league where men and women play together on the same court.”
The MGBA has already played a couple of games in New Jersey. Eventually, the league hopes to create a 40-game regular season with a “final four” playoff system, but for now, the league is putting together a Challenge Cup for teams in places like New York City, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Little Rock, Ark., and Los Angeles. A pair of all-star games will take place Aug. 9-10 at Rucker Park, and there are games pending in Manhattan, Rockland and Poughkeepsie.
The rules for the MGBA, which generally follow FIBA guidelines, are only slightly different than in other basketball leagues.
“Depending on the quarter, there are certain amount of men and women allowed on the floor,” Swart explained. “In the first quarter, for example, you can have three women on the court and two men, while in the second quarter, you can have three men and two women. The only time you can switch those rules around are in the final two minutes of any quarter. At that time, the team that is behind can choose to put five women on the court at once.”
The reason for that unusual rule is that in the MGBA, women receive four points when they make a basket from beyond the three-point arc.
“You can be down 20 points, and if you hit a bunch of those four-pointers, you can come back very quickly,” Smart said.
“There is a lot of strategy in the MGBA. You’re not just talking about regular mismatches, you’re talking about trying to match up with the men and the women. At this level, sometimes a guy is guarding a girl, and sometimes a girl is guarding a guy. The guys don’t look at the women as women. They see them as just players.”
There will be four 11-minute quarters, a 24-second clock, and five fouls before being disqualified.
“We believe that starting this league during the summer or fall will serve as a bridge between the end of the WNBA and the beginning of the NBA seasons, and a symbolic evolution away from separate single-gender basketball,” said Howard in a press release.
Howard is also the author of several books, including, “The Mysterious Gems: The Black Ruby.
Co-founder and vice-president James Scott, a businessman and real estate investor from New Jersey, is confident the league will work.
“The MGBA will be exciting to watch because of a four-point shot, FIBA rules, and men and women playing together as teammates, which will allow for a high caliber of competition,” he said.
The minimum salary for all MGBA players will be $20,000.
Key players for the Scorpions include Johnson, a 37-year-old, 6-foot-7 forward who played at both FMCC and Schenectady County Community College, averaging 18 points per game, and Rachel Coffey, a 5-7, 31-year-old guard who scored 20 points per game at Kingston High School and also played for Syracuse.
Other players on the Scorpions’ roster include 6-0 guard Romeo Bartley, Broome CC product Jaime Curtis, who scored 18.6 ppg at Binghamton High School, 6-0 forward/center Stacey Hardnett, 5-7 guard Shataya McComb from Kingston and Adam McQueen, who scored 16 ppg at SUNY-Ulster.
For the Cyclones, Gray, a 6-0, 29-year-old forward out of Gloversville High School, scored 17 points a game during his scholastic career. Jessica Fairweather, a 6-0, 24-year-old guard, scored 11 ppg at Queens College after averaging 23 ppg during high school.
Rounding out the top players for the Cyclones are 6-0 guard Charles Curnell, who poured in 25.4 ppg while playing for South Bronx High School, 5-9 guard Darryl Jordan, who popped in 19.6 ppg at Canarsie HIgh School, Vanessa Lawson, a 5-6 guard who scored 1,000 points at both Kingston High School and Mount St. Mary; and Kevin Pegram, a 6-6 forward who was a high double-digit scorer at both Beacon High School and Dutchess Community College.
Romeo Bartley, 6-2 F, 33; Rachel Coffey, 5-7 G, 31; Christian Smith, 6-2 G/F, 22; Cordal Johnson, 6-7 F, 37; Stacey Hardnett, 6-1 F, 24; Jeff McQueen, 6-1 G/F, 20; Shataya McComb, 5-7 G, 24; Phillip Reeves, 6-3 F, 32; Talia Beaulieu, 5-11 G/F, 23; Jaime Curtis, 6-0 G/F, 19.
Rich Scott, 6-0 G, 23; Darryl Jordan, 5-9 G, 27; Brice Gray, 6-0 F, 29; Amanda Burnett, 5-7 G, 26; Jessica Fairweather, 6-0 G, 24; Charles Curnell, 6-0 G, 32; Josh Martinez, 6-4 F, 23; Tavia Veasey, 5-8 F, 20; Kevin Pegram, 6-6 F, 27; Tyler Ash, 6-2 G, 23; Vanessa Lawson, 5-6 G, 28.