By Kevin Connelly
Delmas Stubbs has found his calling.
A 1986 graduate of South High School and a military man of 22 years, Stubbs has returned home and started something he can call his.
The one-time basketball player turned long-time basketball official is now running a local women’s basketball league that’s growing by the week.
Stubbs has been everywhere and back. While stationed in Iraq, Stubbs ran a 35-and-over adult league and had almost 100 soldiers playing in it. He said it served as a perfect escape from the realities they faced the rest of the week.
The circumstances are different with the Northeast Ohio Adult Women’s Basketball League, but the purpose is the same.
“To get these women out and keep them active and involved,” Stubbs said.
Every Sunday since May 11, the league has hosted dozens of women from all over the area, all with different backgrounds, and brought them together with one common bond: their love for basketball. They usually play at St. Joseph the Provider Church, with multiple games each week.
Through his travels, Stubbs saw just how many women’s leagues there were and realized that was lacking in the Youngstown-area. So he decided to put his footprint in the sand and did what any 40-something-year-old would do — he hopped on Facebook and starting asking around.
He also went to a 3-on-3 competition in Lowellville to recruit.
As he put it, “the ball just started rolling from there.”
The league is closing in on 100 participants, although Stubbs would love for the participation to be even higher. He has individuals who sign up and teams that want to enter together.
“I don’t know the chemistry,” Stubbs joked Sunday at the McGuffey Center. “I tell them, ‘You want to play? You go out there and show your skills to your teammates and y’all can fill in the pieces.’”
Word of the league is getting around fast, too.
Essence Bell grew up in Twinsburg. She’ll be a junior on the basketball team at Tiffin University and has been traveling to Youngstown for games every Sunday. She showed up knowing only one person. Now she has people she can play with for a long time to come.
“I’m 20-years old now,” Bell said. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to the fact that I can still play even when I’m in my 30s. It’s pretty awesome that some of the people here are doing that now.”
The league is for women 18-and-older, and most are in their early 20s. The most experienced player in the league is 37.
“And she can ball, too,” Stubbs quipped.
“Every time they play, they always have to play with the guys,” he said. “This gives them an opportunity to come out here and play with same level of competitors.”
Halle Minchin-Skook is from Struthers. By her own admission, she’s about as competitive as they come. While she doesn’t mind stepping in with the boys on the court, she enjoys how the league takes her back to her earlier playing days.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was 3 with my cousins in the backyard,” Minchin-Skook said. “I love basketball, it’s just in my blood.
“Plus it brings back some rivalries and trash-talking. It’s good competition.”
Then there’s Shamia Harrison and Jasmine Brown. The two played at Ursuline High School together and are now roommates at the University of Akron. Back for the summer, they jumped at the opportunity to get back on the court. And it’s like they never left.
“Oh, they’re never friendly,” Harrison said of the competitiveness of the league. “On the basketball court, everyone’s out there trying to win. That’s what I love about it.”
The future is bright for the league. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of talking with Stubbs for him to light up with excitement about ideas he has for expanding. He’s even looked into starting a semi-professional women’s basketball team in Youngstown.
There are a number of obstacles that stand in his way, such as a facility and sponsors, but a guy can dream.
“That’s my ultimate goal.” he said. “Not for me, it’s for the women. As a soldier, I’ve been around the world and seen a lot of things, and if you watch some of these women on the court you will see phenomenal talent.
“These women can go somewhere and get seen. Maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to get seen when they were in high school, but they can go somewhere and finally get that opportunity.
“Who knows, this could be their chance to get out of Youngstown.”