In B-Ball Tourney, Community Policing Scores
by Allan Appel | May 8, 2014 12:06 pm
Number 15 of the Blues and number 15 of the Greens could have run afoul of the cops—if they had been hanging around the streets instead of the basketball court.
The game, featuring the talents of John Pittman (Green 15) and Jeron Belin (Blue 15), were surrounded by their neighborhood’s cops and outreach workers as they played in a hard fought championship basketball game in the Save Our Youth basketball league.
The action unfolded Wednesday night in two tense 20-minute halves watched by more than 75 spectators and fellow players at the Ross/Woodward School gymnasium in the Quinnipiac Meadows/Bishop Woods neighborhood.
It was the culmination of a 10-week competition convened by the police department, New Haven Family Alliance’s street outreach workers, the housing authority, and the city’s parks and rec department. They decided to open up a school in a part of town with young people at risk of getting shot or committing violence, and invited them and their friends and family in for a communal meal and weekly basketball contest. The effort was in response to an east-side shooting that took the life of Common Ground High School student Javier Martinez in December. Click here for a story about the emotional community meeting to “keep our schools open till midnight” that followed and the launch of the league, for young people between 16 and 22, which was one of the city’s responses.
The winners Wednesday night were not only the Green team, but the broader experiment.
“This was community policing at its best,” said Shirley Ellis-West, who runs the street outreach program. The community got to know the cops over the 10 weeks, and both sides gained trust in each other.
Wednesday night, the 7-0 undefeated Greens had to work hard to keep down a challenge by the 6-1 Blues. Standout players for the Greens, including Pittman, Spencer Smith, and Dontae Harris, played steady ball. They answered each challenge of the Blues, especially the aggressive second-shot work around the basket by six-foot-seven Belin, with their own timely layups and monster arcing shots from the three-point line.
By the end of the first half, the score was close, 32 to 28, with the Greens’ perfect season severely challenged.
Among the spectators were middle-schoolers seeing their own dreams of dunking glory in the action, as well as players in their early 20s like Lee Chandler (pictured). He was with the Whites, one of the half dozen other teams, whose 5-2 record didn’t get him to Wednesday’s championship game.
Chandler praised the league for its high level of competition and camaraderie.
“I met a lot of cool new guys from around New Haven,” he said.
Several similar competitive basketball leagues take place in the Hill and Dixwell during the year and in the summer, like Street Outreach Worker Omar Ryan’s Hoopin’ Not Shootin in the Hill. The east side of town has been largely left out of the action.
In the second half of Wednesday night’s contest, with the tension increasing, the players went to to the foul line more often. But the game never became ragged. It was still decided by the accuracy and drive of the shooting guards, Smith and Pittman.
With those two pressing, the Blues laid on a closer man-to-man defense. Belin batted the ball away and drove, was fouled, and made two shots.
Still Harris answered with a long shot from the three-point-line that seemed to stay in the air for three minutes before it swished through.
On their next run, the Greens’ Number 10, Mark Brown, found an opening in the Blues’ defense and drove for a lay-up. Tevon Jones added another beautiful arcing shot. The made the score 51 to 44, the Blues down seven points with five minutes left.
Belin and Cam Outlaw of the Blues kept it close with their jumpers. Chris Cagle added two points with a huge dunk with 30 seconds left. Still Pittman, Harris, and Smith led the way down the stretch, with a final score of 64 to 57 making for a perfect season for the Green team.
A trophy presentation followed, then a big meal. The players, spectators, and anyone else in the gym were all fed after the games throughout the season, mainly with pizza and salad on other nights.
The championship meal was huge: chicken both fried and stewed, pork, yellow and white rice and peas, prepared by Will Hernandez (in the lime T-shirt at far right of photo), the uncle of Dave Morales, one of the street outreach workers in attendance.
The east side turned quieter, with less crime, during the 10-week series, said outreach workers’ coordinator Ellis-West. Her workers staffed the games.
The games drew a half-dozen teams of ten players each and sometimes nearly 100 spectators. “We reached out and engaged young people who needed something to do, and if giving them something to do kept them from being mischievous, we met our goal,” Ellis-West said.
“A lot of [my] friends were out on the street, but they came in to watch,” said Pittman.
Officials hope to have a summer version of the Save Our Youth league in the same part of town, though plans remain inchoate. “Let’s see if we can keep it going. Maybe [at the playground] out on Middletown Avenue,” said recreation Supervisor Felicia Shashinka.
Next up: The winners have challenged the cops to a hoops match.
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This is beautiful!!! continue to bridge that communication gap and we are onto something.
We all know crime will still happen regardless of what we do, but events like these involving police will most definitely slow it down and increase cooperation when crimes to occur. Kudos!
Great to read a story like this. I appreciate the work of the outreach and pray that the comradic relationships developed between the young men from different parts of New Haven is sustained and spreads.
What an awesome program! How can we expand this to the rest of the city?
This series of games has been wonderful for the way that these young men were engaged. A community was strengthened over shared meals and friendly competition. All partners stepped up fully! NHFA’s Street Outreach Workers are gems! Kudos to NHFA, Parks and Rec, NHPD and HANH! We look forward to other partners joining as we plan the next engagement! A huge thank you to the media—especially NHI—for positive coverage of our young men!!!
When it comes to Blackfolks why is it programs base on some type of sport.How come we do not split the programs between sports and education.
“When it comes to Blackfolks why is it programs base on some type of sport.How come we do not split the programs between sports and education.”
Same reason why most parents involve their children in sports from a child up. Come on. Don’t spoil a good story. Besides, this is what kids want to do: play sports, and if this is the level that they can connect on, then so be it. It’s already assumed that these kids are going to school to get an education and such. It’s not the city officials job to teach them book smarts, but I’m sure it’s encouraged through communication with these young people.
Lastly, having fun, which includes a fun activity such as playing a sport is a good way to connect with people.
Why do people decide to go out to eat as well as have a drink when they are on a date? How come they don’t decide to meet in a park and talk lol…
Why do people go to the gym when they wanna lose weight instead of running outside?
I can go on and on… Embrace the beautiful story and the positive this has brought.
If someone dies, then critics will have something to say too… They can’t win :)
posted by: Jones Gore on May 8, 2014 4:13pm
This is obviously a good program that Trent Butler has organized, and I a childhood friend supports his effort. I don’t believe that he is just encouraging basketball. He understands that basketball is just the means to organize the youth together in order to deliver the message of social responsibility.
I think many should use his blue print to duplicate what he has done in different parts of the city.
Same reason why most parents involve their children in sports from a child up. Come on. Don’t spoil a good story. Besides, this is what kids want to do: play sports, and if this is the level that they can connect on, then so be it. It’s already assumed that these kids are going to school to get an education and such. It’s not the city
officials job to teach them book smarts, but I’m sure it’s encouraged through communication with these young people.
Read what I said.
When it comes to Black folks why is it programs base on some type of sport.How come we do not split the programs between sports and education.
Notice I said split the programs between sports and education.You can do both education and sports.I have talk to a lot of these young people.A lot of them do not care for sports.A lot of them want after school education.How about entrepreneurship,How many of them will have Summer Jobs.Like I said split the programs between sports and education.