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New summer league blends basketball with worship

Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman David Akin, a 1998 Berkmar grad, is the co-founder of the Team BELIEF summer league at Suwanee Sports Academy. Team BELIEF is an organization that's a faith-based company that allows current and former college basketball players the ability hone their skills. Akin gathers players at mid-court to say a prayer prior to a game in the Team BELIEF summer league at Suwanee Sports Academy.

Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman David Akin, a 1998 Berkmar grad, is the co-founder of the Team BELIEF summer league at Suwanee Sports Academy. Team BELIEF is an organization that's a faith-based company that allows current and former college basketball players the ability hone their skills. Akin gathers players at mid-court to say a prayer prior to a game in the Team BELIEF summer league at Suwanee Sports Academy.

David Akin is the kind of guy who likes to stay busy, especially when it comes to basketball.

The Parkview basketball assistant coach easily could have spent the summer enjoying some time off from school.

But Akin has a passion for basketball and an even bigger passion for Jesus Christ. The two have come together this summer for the Team BELIEF summer league.

The faith-based organization allows current and former college basketball players the ability hone their skills in a unique setting.

"We use basketball as a platform to witness our faith in Jesus Christ. That's where everything is centered," Akin said. "The summer league allows them to play through the summer against really good competition."

The idea for the summer league came to Akin, a 1998 Berkmar grad, while leading the Gwinnett Majic to WBA championships as a head coach in 2010-11.

It was evident that many players did not enjoy having to practice two or three times a week, travel to obscure cities to play games and get minimal play.

So Akin added the summer league to Team BELIEF this year to give college and pro players a place to compete without all the obligations of playing for a semi-pro team.

Team BELIEF, which stands for Basketball, Education, Love, Industriousness, Enthusiasm and Faith, was started in 2010 and was geared towards youth camps and exposure camps for high school players.

"Now we're trying to switch gears with the summer league for college and professional players to play in," Akin said.

The organization's website has a monthly Bible verse and seeks prayer requests. Before each summer league game, Akin gathers the players at mid-court for a prayer.

"We use all this as a means to witness. It's a way to tie in Jesus," Akin said.

But don't think this league is a glorified church league filled with out-of-shape, middle-aged men.

The Team BELIEF summer league has attracted some former college standouts who are now playing overseas like Michigan State's Chris Allen or Connecticut's Jon Mandeldove, both former Gwinnett stars. It also includes players who were on high school state championship teams.

"This is an organized league for specific players," Akin said. "We're real careful and mindful of the level of play. We're trying to create an atmosphere for only serious college or serious players from overseas."

The league features eight teams with six to seven players on each team. Games are played Monday nights at Suwanee Sports Academy and the season will end Aug. 5 with a tournament. Games are recorded and officiated and DVDs of the games are sent to agents and professional teams seeking to add players to their rosters.

"The players have reiterated to me it's the best game they can find on a Monday night," Akin said.

Adrien Borders, who played on Berkmar's 2000 and 2001 state titles teams, agrees the competition is way better and safer than playing at a local park or fitness gym.

"It's a great league. It's very competitive," Borders said. "I think it's going to build up to be something better. There's a lot of athletes in Gwinnett. There's a lot of guys that want to play in a competitive adult league."

Akin agrees. He's been in preliminary discussions about adding a sponsor to the league and could see the number of teams growing as well. It's certainly enough to keep his basketball interest filled in the summer.

"On top of having high-caliber players, possibly a big-time sponsor for next year, we're at the best facility you could ask for," Akin said.

"The Lord is intentional in his way, so I keep on following Him."