By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published November 13, 2008
In its second season of existence, the Catholic Men’s Basketball League at Our Lady of Mercy High School is thriving. Just over 100 men from Atlanta-area parishes are running the 84-foot court in a competitive and friendly environment. The excitement of the previous season is back. Teams from Our Lady of Lourdes and Holy Trinity each have two overtime wins, and St. Gabriel had a double-overtime win in September.
The league opened its season on Sept. 7, and the final games of the season will be played on Nov. 23, followed by the annual awards’ presentation and the naming of the all league team.
League founder and commissioner Jim Winkler recently took some questions from The Georgia Bulletin about the 2008 season.
GB: How is the second year of the Catholic Men’s Basketball League going?
Winkler: It has been going very smoothly. We have the same seven teams back this year that we had last year, and while all the teams have improved drastically, Our Lady of Lourdes (9-0) continues to dominate play. We have 106 players on the rosters this year, and 47 are new from last year, which means our reaching out for fellowship among the parishes is succeeding.
GB: Has the league accomplished its goals of fostering fellowship among parishes and providing exposure to Our Lady of Mercy High School?
Winkler: Yes, you can just tell from seeing all the players mingle and speaking to each other from not only their own team but the others that our goal of fellowship is working. As far as providing exposure to our wonderful school, I think it is working in that people continue to come up to me and tell me how they had never been to OLM in the past, but what a beautiful campus and facility it is. Only time will tell if we generate more students from the league, but that could take years before we see the fruits.
GB: Did you make any changes to the league following your inaugural season?
Winkler: No, not really. We have made a few minor rule changes and procedure changes, but I go by the old saying ‘if it is not broken don’t fix it,’ and last year things really went smooth.
GB: Are there plans to grow the league next year to add more teams?
Winkler: We had some interest in additional teams this year, but it is hard to get folks thinking basketball in the middle of summer when we organize the league, so we did not add any this year. We have already had at least one parish that wants to join next year, so I think we will continue to grow. I think slow growth is best because it is easy to manage.
GB: Which teams are scorching the nets, and who’s likely to be contending for the championship this season?
Winkler: No question, Our Lady of Lourdes. All of our teams play hard and to be quite honest, a lot harder than I ever dreamed about when I organized this league. It is unreal how quick and determined these guys are, but Lourdes is definitely the team to beat. They have lost only once in two years and are well on the way to a second championship this year with the season winding down.
GB: Are there any other priests on the court this year or is St. Matthew Church pastor Father Victor Galier still holding it down by himself?
Winkler: No, Father Vic is the only priest playing and has done a good job. He is quite an athlete and brings a good crowd to see him as well. St. Matthew may not have won this year on the scoreboard, but they have brought by far the biggest crowds to the games. The St. Matthew parishioners just don’t show up either. They really cheer on the team, and this is what it is all about—fellowship both on and off the court.