Basketball Alliance aims to lure youths off streets, into gym

As director of the Louisiana Youth Sports Network, Leroy Hollins II usually deals with high school-age athletes. But, what do those athletes do when they’re too old for scholastic and other organized youth leagues?

A lot of them just hang out. A lot of them get into trouble.

Hollis thinks offering those young men “something structured” could help.

So, he’s created it.

In March, the Neighborhood Basketball Alliance began in gyms at BREC’s Gus Young, Monte Sano and Longfellow parks, with Howell Park coming on board when renovations are finished there.

The alliance is opening the gyms at later hours — 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

And, while basketball is on the agenda, Hollins has another motive. He hopes that giving inner city young men an athletic outlet will reduce the temptation to get into trouble.

“We’re trying to get those young men that are normally, between 8 and 10, doing something else they shouldn’t, for us to have an outlet for them to play games, play some basketball, kind of burn some energy, give them something for their idle time,” Hollins says.

Those and other gyms are open before 8 p.m., but the basketball courts aren’t always available because other activities might be scheduled. The extended hours are dedicated to pickup games, and Hollins has plans for something more.

Beginning Thursday, April 10, Hollins is creating league play of five-on-five basketball with referees and scorekeepers. He has spoken to area law enforcement and first-responders and said the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, Baton Rouge Police Department and Baton Rouge Fire Department have committed to field teams for those games.

“I think that this is a good idea for those of us like Leroy who want to give back — the law enforcement community and those who will take advantage of night basketball to come together to show our interest in those who will participate,” said Mark Dumaine, EBR assistant district attorney, whose office consulted Hollis about the league, though it will not field a team. “The hope is that it will give some of our youngsters an alternative to just hanging out and give them a wholesome activity and the chance to interact with all of us.”

“Our goal with that is to break down some of those walls, those communication walls that we have in those communities, particularly the 70805 community,” Hollins said. “We’re bringing them to an environment where the community is comfortable. Instead of me coming to a police station, or me talking to you out on the street, the game of basketball brings that (environment) where they can actually create a bond or a relationship outside of each other’s jobs.”