Powder League co-founders focus on showcasing culture in Salt Lake City

Powder League co-founder Neema Namdar warms up with a 3-point shot (Kaylee Shores)

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SALT LAKE CITY – In the small gymnasium at Judge Memorial High, hundreds of fans show up to listen to music, fashion and, of course, basketball.

The Powder League is a pro-am basketball league in its third year of operation, co-founded by Neema Namdar and Keegan Rembacz. It features current and former NBA players, college athletes, and serious hoops.

“A grown man’s AAU,” Namdar said.

The Powder League currently consists of nine teams, each named after its captain. Matches are played on Wednesday and Friday evenings, with a knockout tournament taking place after eight weeks of play.

So how did the Powder League come about?

Well, that was Namdar and Rembacz’s idea. The two friends each had their own idea for a basketball-centric event, and after sharing their ideas, the Powder League was born, with Namdar handling basketball operations while playing in the league and Rembacz dealing with graphic design. and administration.

After both graduating from Alta High, Rembacz served a church mission in Spain and Namdar played college basketball – first at Southern Utah, then Utah State University Eastern, then Hawaii Pacific University.

It was in Hawaii Pacific that Namdar found his inspiration for a pro-am league. Namdar took a course on special events, and the final project was to design an event. He wanted to create a basketball league featuring NBA names while giving fashion designers a place to sell clothes.

Around the same time, Rembacz had his own idea. A self-proclaimed hoop at heart, he claims to “live and breathe hoops”. The vision of the Powder League came to him in a dream, he said.

“Literally one night I woke up from this dream,” Rembacz said. “It was kind of like (the present-day Powder League) but more on a smaller scale with college kids dunking and music. I turned around and hit the note and went back to sleep.”

The day after Rembacz’s dream, he FaceTimed Namdar to tell him. Namdar convinced him to take the idea one step further and create a full pro-am league, and the ball rolling soon began. Just a week after their first call, they were already attending meetings and Rembacz was working on logos and graphics.

BYU alumna Yoeli Childs blocks a shot during a Powder League game at Judge Memorial High School.
BYU alumna Yoeli Childs blocks a shot during a Powder League game at Judge Memorial High School. (Photo: Kaylee Shores)

Detroit Pistons member Frank Jackson was crucial to the Powder League’s initial success. Namdar grew up with Jackson and the two remained close friends. Throughout the early stages, Jackson provided insight into Namdar and Rembacz and also helped them connect with other basketball players. From then on, the league was essentially word of mouth.

“Basically, I meet people through basketball,” Namdar said. “We just bond with guys and they come in and then they tell their friends and the word gets out there.”

It is important to note that the focus of the Powder League is not just basketball, but also culture.

“Where can you find that in Utah? asked Rembacz. “People think something like this can’t exist here, but it’s easy, someone just needs to kick it off. Everyone here loves basketball, fashion and music, so we combined it all. and made it an event.”

Starting this summer, the Powder League will expand beyond the initial nine-week summer season in hopes of giving fans more chances to experience the event. They are in talks to collaborate with Flanker Kitchen and Sporting Club to host a block party at Gateway Mall. The block party would also feature basketball, but would be another great opportunity for local clothing brands to showcase themselves.

“Ultimately, (having the music and the fashion designers) adds to the atmosphere, but it also helps these people more than we could ever know.” said Rembacz.

On the basketball side, the Powder League is also a great opportunity for players to get exposure.

Participating athletes have the chance to add more films to their portfolio – many players have career aspirations. Some of the athletes are already in the NBA or the G League, so their presence helps bring the level of competition to the next level as they work on their own game in the offseason.

Although the league has only been around for three years, it is just getting started.

Rembacz and Namdar have big plans for the future of the Powder League. Eventually, they want the league to hold events in neighboring states like Colorado and Montana. In Utah, they want the Powder League to have its own facility. They also discussed the possibility of working with the Utah Jazz to help organize events as well.

“We’re kind of in tune with what they’re doing and what they’re doing in the community,” Rembacz said. “One of our goals is to work with these big brands and put some of the smaller brands on the bigger stages.”

The Powder League takes place every Wednesday and Friday night at Judge Memorial High. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

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