The 25th season of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am is underway at the University of St. Joseph’s

 The 25th season of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am is underway at the University of St. Joseph’s

WEST HARTFORD — The 25th year of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am has begun, and the league has already started filling up its new home at the University of St. Joseph, the James A. Calhoun Gymnasium.

The league’s founder, Pete Higgins, had to make a call for permission to pull out the gym’s second set of bleachers to accommodate the Sunday night crowd, one of the largest of this quarter-century celebration so far, that dismissed the rain and came out to see former Windsor High star Amir “Primo” Spears Jr. put on a show with his former high school teammate Corey McKeithan.

“The opening night (June 25) was big, we had a lot of vendors with Hartford Healthcare on board, they helped out with promoting the league as well. But (Sunday) night, with Primo and Corey, they really brought the crowd out,” Higgins said.

Hartford Healthcare became the league’s main sponsor after conversations with CEO Jeff Flaks and his chief of staff, Olusegun “Shay” Ajayi, who played in the pro-am during his time at Trinity. The new sponsor, with connections to Jim Calhoun and University of St. Joseph Athletic Director Amanda Devitt, helped get the league moved back to the Hartford area after years of bouncing around.

“It’s a great fit right now,” Higgins said. “It helps us out and then obviously with this gym … it worked out for us to have this venue, to have (Hartford Healthcare) on board, their name on the court, I couldn’t ask for a better scenario.”

The main attraction Sunday night, Spears, recently transferred to Florida State after spending his first two college basketball seasons at Duquesne and Georgetown, and McKeithan is a rising junior at Rider University. Yale’s leading scorer, Matt Knowling, who is from Ellington and played at East Catholic High, played Monday night and is a regular.

There could be a celebrity appearance on any given night at the pro-am, whether it be current UConn players or former NBA legends. Several Huskies, including the likes of Ray Allen, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, among others, have made appearances at the pro-am in the past. Youssouf Singare, a member of UConn’s incoming freshman class, has played in the league the last two summers and is likely to be one of the Huskies who come out and play at some point this year.

“We think this is a good fit for us to come back and really bring back the community,” Higgins said. “They can feel comfortable where we’re right down the street, very accessible, as long as you follow the signs you’ll get here. We’ve got a great security force, a great staff, a great commissioner (Anthony Price), all these former players that say, ‘Pete, what do you need?’ It’s just a great team effort.”


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