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Women's League Brings Out His Running Game : Basketball: There's never a dull moment for Cedric Hurt, coordinator of summer league.

August 02, 1990|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was cool and breezy in Inglewood Monday night, but Cedric Hurt, who runs one of the nation's largest women's summer basketball leagues, was sweating like a madman.

From the moment he drove into the parking lot at St. Mary's Academy at 6:15 p.m. until 11 p.m., Hurt was in constant motion.

First he had to deal with the athletes outside the gym who were bouncing basketballs impatiently as they waited to get inside. Their game, the first of three that night, had been cancelled, yet they were in uniform and ready to go.

Then Hurt had to fix a broken light, set up the snack bar and direct a cable crew that was going to televise the 8 p.m. game between Mid City and Showtime. In the meantime, players, coaches and parents stopped him to ask questions.

It was a typical night for the coordinator of For Athletes Only, a South Bay-based women's basketball league with 10 teams, composed mainly of high school and college players.

"It's difficult to run the league and coach and do everything else," Hurt said, wiping sweat from his brow. "I've been running this by myself for the last five years."

In addition to his numerous behind-the-scenes duties, Hurt, 34, also coaches one of the teams and is the public-address announcer for most of the games. At the end of the night he's exhausted, but he continues to show for the nine weekly games, starting at 6:30 p.m., on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

And he doesn't even get paid. Each athlete pays $70 to play in the league, but the money is used for uniforms, gym rental and to pay for officials, which costs $34 a game. Because the league is sanctioned by the NCAA, Hurt isn't allowed to charge admission.

Hurt said he loses money every year. He has been unsuccessful in getting a sponsor that would at least supply equipment and waive the player fee, which he often doesn't get because many players can't afford it.

"I feel like the bad guy because I have to hunt them down to get the money," Hurt said. "A lot of them just don't have it."

Despite lack of manpower and financial backing, most observers agree that the league is well run. Loyola Marymount women's basketball Coach Todd Corman said he hasn't seen another league like it.

"Cedric does an excellent job with it," Corman said. "It's the only league in Southern California that has consistency and is well organized. The kids know they're always going to play. There's not another summer league in L.A. that's run this well."

FAO was created by Hurt and Frances O'Meara eight years ago. At the time, O'Meara, now an attorney in Los Angeles, was the women's basketball coach at Loyola and Hurt was her assistant. They came up with the idea after watching the NBA summer pro league at Loyola.

"There was nowhere for the girls to play in the summer," said Hurt, who served as a Loyola women's assistant in 1982 and '83. "We just wanted to showcase the girls' talent."

O'Meara, who played basketball at Stanford, said the initial response to the league was great. All she had to do was put the word out among college and high school coaches.

"I wanted women to feel they had an identity in the athletic world," said O'Meara, who coached the Loyola women for four years before retiring to practice law. "We even got sponsors, which was rare in those days because they all wanted to contribute to the men."

About 100 high school, collegiate and former collegiate basketball players tried out the first year and 10 teams were formed.

"You remember those jackets 'For Members Only?' " Hurt said, laughing. "Well that's how we came up with our name. We just changed it For Athletes Only."

The league started out at Loyola and has since moved to Serra High, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Los Angeles and Compton College. For the past two years, FAO has used the gym at St. Mary's, where Hurt coached the girls' basketball team to three Camino Real League titles and the Southern Section 2-A Division semifinals and quarterfinals from 1986 to '89.

He left St. Mary's to become an assistant women's basketball coach at New Mexico State last year. He quit that job at the end of the season because of a head coaching change.

It gave him more time and energy to put into his 110-player league, which started June 27 and ends with an eight-team playoff Aug. 10. The player selection process is similar to that of the NBA draft. In June, there was a two-day tryout at El Camino College from which 10 volunteer coaches, all from the high school level, chose players for their respective teams.

"It's a fantastic experience for me," said Fremont High girls' basketball Coach Mat Taylor, who has coached FAO teams for four years. "The first year I coached here, Vickie Mitchell, a two-time All-American at Cal Poly Pomona, was on my team. It was great to have these older, good players listen to me. It built my confidence as a coach."

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