Besecker Basketball American League

In Year Two of operation, the Besecker Basketball American League is a recreational men's basketball league in Manheim Township. Games are played on a outdoor court on the 10-acre property of Joe Besecker.

Recreational men’s basketball leagues are not uncommon. There are several of them at fitness facilities across Lancaster County.

The participants might be former high school or collegiate basketball players looking for a way to continue to scratch the hoops itch. Others might use it as an enjoyable form of exercise. Or even as a way to maintain friendships.

The Besecker Basketball American League is all of those things. But it’s different from other recreational men’s basketball leagues.

In Year Two of existence, the BBAL is a summer league played on a backyard court of a Manheim Township home and consists of eight teams made up of 10 to 12 players apiece, many of them former Lancaster-Lebanon League basketball players.

Where the BBAL separates itself is in a few areas. Statistics are kept. Sponsorships have paid for jerseys, a video production crew and referees (all current and former L-L League officials), along with the water and pizza provided to players each Sunday.

There’s a website with rosters and an apparel shop, along with recaps of games. The four games held every Sunday evening, each with 20-minute halves on a running clock, are livestreamed on the league’s YouTube page, which is also where video highlights are later edited and shared in a weekly video report. The league has two Twitter accounts where game results are live-tweeted, league-wide stats are shared, faux injury updates are disseminated and tongue-in-cheek smack is talked.

There are also playoffs and an all-star game preceded by 3-point and dunk contests.

“It’s more fun than the other leagues,” Devin Atkinson said.

Atkinson is a Lancaster Catholic alum and former all-state high school guard now playing basketball at NCAA Division III DeSales University. He set the BBAL single-game scoring and 3-point records with 51 points, 33 of those coming on 11 treys, in last year’s season-opener. He was later named the 2021 BBAL Most Valuable Player.

Atkinson is one of about a half-dozen BBAL participants currently playing college hoops.

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The BBAL is a young man’s league. The youngest players are recent high school graduates, such as Lancaster Catholic alum Jack Engle, who is soon headed to play for Juniata. The oldest who shows up on a consistent basis is 29-year-old Kurt Goldbach, a Lancaster Catholic alum who now leads a full-time career as a state police officer.

Many BBAL players are former high school hoopsters, most alums of Lancaster Catholic, with others being graduates of Lancaster Mennonite, Manheim Township, McCaskey and Penn Manor. And if they aren’t former basketball players, they likely participated in another high school sport in the L-L League.

“I know there are others who miss playing but can’t do it anymore,” Johnny Besecker said. “This is a great middle ground for people who love basketball and want to be part of something again.”

Besecker is a Lancaster Catholic basketball product who is now studying marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. While the BBAL has a small army of folks making gears turn behind the scenes, Besecker is the driving force behind the creation and growth of the league.

“It was started (in 2021) because we hadn’t seen each other in awhile due to the pandemic,” Besecker said.

The ‘we’ in this instance are the former teammates and current longtime friends of Besecker, many of whom grew up playing on the backyard court on the 10-acre property owned by the Besecker family. The court was built 12 years ago.

“I coached a lot of these kids in AAU,” father Joe Besecker said. “I wanted them to have all of this (court) to stay out of trouble.”

Joe Besecker is the founder of Emerald Asset Management, a diversified asset management firm with over $5 billion under management, and Emerald Foundation, which has distributed more than $400,000 to more than 70 charities, according to the Emerald website.

Besecker and his wife have four adult children who all played sports at Lancaster Catholic.

“Not all the kids have good situations at home,” Joe Besecker said. “My wife and I wanted to make sure they did. There’s no drinking. There’s no funny business. That’s important to me. It’s been that way since we built it (the court).”

The BBAL doesn’t take itself too seriously, evidenced by the team names: Bullies, Dragons, Gremlins, Lanc Show, Titans, Tropics, Woodpeckers, 8 Balls.

But games are competitive.

“In our championship last year, there were some fights and stuff,” Atkinson said. “We’ve been better this year. We calmed it down. But we go hard.”

Another thing the BBAL does that other recreational leagues might not: trade players.

“I just got traded,” said Denzel Kabasele, a Lancaster Catholic alum who now plays at Miles Community College. “We did a couple trades. I got traded for (McCaskey alum) Jah Greaves. He’s now on the Bullies. I play for the Gremlins.”

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Players park their cars in a grass lot that is otherwise used for equestrian riding, which is worth noting considering Johnny Besecker’s next idea.

“My next thing is to do this with football in the grass lot,” Besecker said. “I want to do a football league in there.”

And after that?

“As they get older,” Joe Besecker said, “I’m sure they’ll move onto pickleball.”

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