By Rich Bockmann
For most of the year, the basketball rims at St. Albans Park stand bare, but for a few weeks in the summer the hoops are outfitted with nylon nets as young men from southeast Queens sweat it out and learn a few life lessons in the process.
“This park is never being used for tournaments. We want to bring a little back to the community,” said Rob Moses, director of the More Than a Game Basketball Invitational. “Through basketball they learn about teamwork, working harder and just playing together. The players learn to be humble.”
Last week’s Final Four action kicked off around 7 p.m., when Team Underrated and Determined Student Athletes started the first of the high school division’s two matches. Moses said the tournament began with 20 junior high and high school teams made up of about 200 players, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds and use basketball as a means to better themselves.
One of those young men was Darryl Adams, the teenager from Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Education High School who Moses coached on the New York Blackhawks team. Adams lived in the South Jamaica Houses and survived a brush with death when he was shot in June 2011 as he was walking home with a friend, who was fatally shot.
Adams’ mother tried to move her son out of the housing projects, but in March he was gunned down in cold blood at the age of 18.
Moses said the young man had made his fair share of poor decisions, but he was devoted to playing basketball and starting to head down the right path.
“I remember Darryl as one of those kids, early in high school never really went to class but he wanted to play basketball on the college level, and he started to get his grades up,” he said, pointing out that Adams’ presence was missed this year. “A lot of kids know him. This is his community.”
As encouraging as he finds it to see the young men spend their nights playing basketball with each other, Moses said he fears many of them may succumb to the same fate Adams did.
“Every day I worry about that,” he said.
One of Adams’ teammates, both at Edison and on the Blackhawks, was 16-year-old Omar Paul, who said he, too, recognized the direction Adams’ life was taking.
“He was making changes. Before he wasn’t doing the right thing,” he said.
Paul, who said he also wants to play professional basketball, said he does well in school and is considering going to college where he may study to be a lawyer or doctor. He joked and laughed with his Blackhawks teammates as they watched the Determined Student Athletes best Team Underrated 31-26.
“I feel like we connect more,” he said of the bond he forges with his friends through the league. “We feel more like a family each and every day.”
The Blackhawks would go on to edge out their opponents, Team Positive Direction, by a score of 40-39, setting up a championship match with the Determined Student Athletes for this week.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.