The men who make up the Absecon Social and Athletic Club's men's basketball league will be the first to admit they're not exactly pros. Few of the 30 or so men who make up the group have high school experience, let alone college.

But they play not for glory, but for the love of the game - and a love of giving back to their community.

Drew Steelman, who coordinates the league made up of ASAC youth coaches, said the members of the group are tightly bound to the city of Absecon and its youth sports programs.

"It's all very volunteer-oriented," Steelman said. "You're not allowed to play in our league unless you're a part of ASAC and you volunteer for something. That's the catch. There's only a handful of guys not from Absecon, but they have ties to the town."

The men's league was established in the early 1990s by a group of volunteer coaches and coordinators with ASAC, which runs baseball, basketball, soccer and softball leagues for Absecon youth.

The group meets Monday nights in the gymnasium at the Absecon school complex off Pomona Road after the youth players depart for the evening. Games consist of two 25-minute running-clock halves, and are held from mid-October through the end of February, at which point they hold a tournament and crown a winner.

Joe Mason, who started playing in 1994, the league's second year, is one of its longest-playing members. While the competition has gotten younger and the style of the game has changed since Mason started playing, he said there's little he enjoys more than a Monday-night game.

"I can't get away from the gym," the Brigantine resident said. "I just love being out here in the gym. You almost have to pull me off, scrape me off the gym floor. I just love being out here with something to do in the winter, just love being in the gym, playing ball. I've been playing since fifth or sixth grade. It's been a lifelong hobby."

Men can join the league starting at 20, and the oldest member is about 60, Steelman said.

Teams are made up of about seven guys each and are picked through a draft in the beginning of a season. Some years, the league has as many as seven teams, but with a low turnout this year, that number shrunk to five.

The league is run at no cost to ASAC, as its members secure sponsors for their shirts and pay insurance and referee fees from their own pockets, Steelman said.

Mike Mannery has played for three years, and only ever played pickup basketball before joining the league. Even though some members have more experience than he does, Mannery said, the league's intensity level is just right.

"Playing with a bunch of high school kids is different than playing with a bunch of college grads," Mannery said. "Those guys are obviously better. Being here, everybody is relatively the same skill level, so it's a lot of good games.

"Nobody is too arrogant, nobody is too laid back. The competition is very good."

While it's already midway through the season, Steelman said the league will accept new members, provided they serve as volunteers with ASAC.

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