OSHKOSH, Wis. — A new upstart semi-pro basketball league debuted at Menominee Nation Arena on Saturday.
The Wisconsin Basketball League hopes to provide another avenue for local basketball players to continue playing the game at a higher skill level while staying close to home.
"After they graduate high school or college, and if they don't get the right opportunities at the right time, they kind of fall off the back burner," league commissioner Ally Gwidt. "So this gives them the opportunity to continue their athletic careers."
It started with one team under Gwidt's management and Blaze Sports & Fitness' ownership in the American Basketball Association last year. Blaze debated rejoining but decided to expand their resources into their own league. In the inaugual season, WBL has five teams, based in the Fox Valley, Milwaukee and Madison.
"Our goal would be about eight to ten to make it a really competitive atmosphere," Gwidt said. "Pulling from the big cities but also pulling from places that don't normally get the opportunity of playing professional basketball at this level."
Some familiar faces in the Wisconsin basketball scene graced the sidelines Saturday afternoon, including UW-Oshkosh alum Brett Wittchow coaching the Milwaukee Kings, who hopes to see the league expand quickly.
"This is the same type of set up that a lot of European leagues have," Wittchow said. "I played in a league similar to this in Germany, and they do have professional players that get paid and make it a full-time job. So someday, hopefully we get enough teams and we get enough support from the Wisconsin community and we can make this a professional league."
Adjacent to Wittchow, international baller Phil Cartwright coaches the Wisconsin Blaze Ignite, with high praise for the woman-owned and -commissioned upstart.
"I think you know teams are wanting this," Cartwright said. "Teams want that structure. They want continuity. They want the Ally Gwidts of the world running this league."