The Washington, D.C. area is gradually tugging at the title for hottest basketball pipeline in the U.S. The insertion of talented stars such as Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson and Sam Young into the NBA over the past few seasons is proof positive that the area is definitely home to some talent. Durant, Gay and Green are currently competing for spots on the Team USA roster while Beasley, Lawson and Young have all shown promise during their league tenure.

For many of those aforementioned players, they had to start in some arena where scouts could be amazed and fans could mark down their names as ones to keep an eye on in the future. And for many of those players, the Tom Jones Elite Summer League All-Star Game was that venue. Created by Jones, the founder and first supervisor of the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubhouse No. 10, the league was formed to provide a positive alternative to gangs, drugs, and violence for at-risk youth.

In operation for over 20 years, the league hosted its annual All-Star game for ages 14 and under in front of families and American Athletic Union (AAU) coaches at the clubhouse on Thursday – impressing many in attendance. “You’re looking at the next wave of high school All-Americans and future collegiate standouts,” one spectator informed.

Flashing fancy dribbling skills, unexpected long-range shooting and mature competitiveness, players from popular AAU area squads Bump-n-Run, D.C. Assault, D.C. Warriors, Team Takeover and others were on full display. Watching 9-year-olds dribble behind their back may not be exciting to most observers but for basketball junkies, it’s quite impressive. The advanced skills that many of the players showed–most notably the children under 12–electrified even the modest of basketball fans and hinted at how big the D.C. basketball scene is . “With the AAU brackets and such coming out you have a lot of kids who play in the AAU and with them traveling and playing amongst themselves, it’s a great thing,” said Terrell Prant, mentor and athletic director of the program.

Although three games were played and winners were crowned, every youth who starred at the All-Star game came away as a victor. Building the next wave of superstars is one thing but keeping kids organized and off the street is the league’s main goal, a goal that was highlighted for another successful summer on Thursday.

“ gives the kids an open air that they can do anything,” Prant added. “Instead of seeing something on TV they can actually come out here and perform it themselves and have fun with it.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO