GLOVERSVILLE - Growing up in Gloversville, professional basketball player Harley Fuller fondly remembers his trips to the old YMCA on East Fulton Street to play basketball.
Fuller began honing his skills at a young age before going on to play high school basketball for Gloversville, and later Broadalbin Perth. Fuller went on to play for two years at SUNY Cobleskill before transferring to Florida International University, a Division I school in Miami, Fla.
After a coaching change that brought NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas to FIU, Fuller transferred to Division II Molloy College after being faced with decreased playing time. Fuller impressed at every level of basketball and signed to play professionally in Germany with a team called Treis-Karden, before making his way to Argentina to play with 9 de Julio this past season. Fuller, who returns to his hometown of Gloversville during the offseason, is currently awaiting a call from his agent that will let him know where he will be playing in the upcoming season.
Harley Fuller poses for a photo at the Darling Field basketball courts Thursday. Fuller is helping start a summer basketball league at the courts in addition to conducting several basketball camps this summer. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)
The basketball court where Fuller so memorably got his start, no longer exists. Apartments now sit where the Gloversville YMCA used to be.
"The old YMCA in Gloversville that kids used to walk to everyday when I was younger, they took that down," said Fuller. "There's really not a place for young kids to go play."
The new facility, located on Harrison Street, is not exactly within walking distance like it used to be. Add to that a downturned economy in recent years, and regularly shooting hoops on a nice court simply isn't as easy as it used to be.
"Some kids don't have enough money to go pay 40-50 dollars a month to be at the Y everyday," Fuller said.
Fuller, known locally for his youth basketball camps, is taking matters into his own hands.
For nearly two years, Fuller has been working with Gloversville mayor Dayton King to implement a renovation of the basketball courts at Darling Field in Gloversville.
"You look in Johnstown and there are three or four outdoor courts that are maintained," Fuller said. "Gloversville, if you look around, there's really not a nice outdoor court for kids to play on. Even inside of Gloversville, there's really not the indoor gyms that anybody can pay to go into."
One of Fuller's main purposes in creating a premier spot in Gloversville to play basketball is to implement the Upstate Elite Summer League, a league Fuller hopes will in time feature three divisions of players of all sexes, ages 11 to adult.
Fuller first looked at the space known as "The Cage" on East Fulton Street in Gloversville when he had renovations in mind. After deciding the space was too small to accommodate his idea for a league, he set his sights on Darling Field.
"There's a lot of space, a lot of parking, and a lot of room for kids," Fuller said. "It's kind of a central area. Kids can walk to it. It's in a safe area where parents are going to want their kids to go."
The basketball courts at Darling Field are owned by the Gloversville School District, with the rest of the area owned by the city of Gloversville. Fuller attended many meetings and eventually got the renovations approved. Fuller received donations from local people, and was happy to spend a great deal of his own money in paying for seal coating, lining, and new rims.
"I just like helping the kids," Fuller said. "It's fun for me."
Fuller has teamed up with Foothills AAU Hoop Club President Mike Philo in his efforts to get the league together. Fuller's initial plan was to create three divisions: men 18 and older, girls ages 11 to 15, and boys ages 11 to 15.
While only the men's division is full for the inaugural effort, Fuller hopes the buzz created this summer will drum up more interest in years to come.
"We just want to have one league off the ground this year in order to kind of get it moving," Fuller said. "I think one league this year is a really good starting point for the organization, and the city obviously. The city needs a league like this."
The league will feature an electronic scoreboard and certified officials. Fuller's mission is clear.
"I personally really wanted to give somewhere for young kids to have the opportunities I had growing up when I had a court to play on all the time," said Fuller. "I was fortunate in that respect."
The league is set to run from July 2 through Aug. 12.
Additionally, Fuller's yearly basketball camp will take place at Broadlbin-Perth High school this year. The Little Buddies Camp for players ages five to nine will run from July 8-12 at a cost of $85 per player. The girls camp for players ages 10-17 is slated to run from July 15-19 at a cost of $110. Finally, the boys camp for players ages 10-17 will take place from July 22-26, also at a cost of $110 per player.
Spots are still available in each camp. Those interested can call 775-0819 to request a registration flier.