'Shoot Hoops Not Guns' Basketball Tournament Aims to Stop Violence

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By Ashley Thompson

Montgomery is leading the state in homicides this year. Now, some people are taking a different approach in trying to stop the violence.

There have been 18 homicides in Montgomery so far, many committed by young adults, some even in their teens. It seems as if violence between young people is growing more and more common in Montgomery. Craig Boykin says it's something he can relate to.

"My mom was on drugs and I didn't have a father," he explains. "I was in a learning disability in school, I repeated two or three grades. I was shot when I was like 16 and dropped out of high school. So, I understand the importance of being around something bigger than yourself."

And that's why Boykin started something bigger than himself. After getting his life together and getting back on track, he founded United Dream Montgomery, an organization that partners youth with mentors, something he never had. Their first event is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that will not only involve inner city youth but others, like small business owner Erick Wright.

"We have a team that consists of firemen, local police officers, and business owners," says Wright. "We also have representatives from Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia."

Boykin says he hopes the tournament will help expose troubled youth to positive role models.

"Most of the guys that we're bringing out from the hood and from the projects, they've never seen a professional black man, or a man's pants pulled up, or a man that speaks a certain way, or a man that doesn't have to use profanity every other word. So it puts them around a different breed of man," he says.

Some young people say they like the idea of being around a different breed of man. We caught up with some basketball players at Montgomery's Mcintyre Community center. They tell us playing ball helps them stay out of trouble.

"It's just a place to get off the streets and have something to do, something positive to do," says basketball fan D'andre Russell. "It's a good place to have fun with the kids and stuff."

Some say the idea of playing a game of hoops with cops and firemen would only benefit them.

"I think they'd get along with the cops and probably stay out of trouble," says Tavaras Smith of Montgomery.

"It just shows a positive influence on Montgomery and just something fun to do," says Russell.

Applications for the 3-on-3 'Shoot Hoops not Guns' Basketball Tournament must be turned in by April 22nd. For more information on how to participate or sponsor a team, call Erick Wright at 334-434-9693.

 



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