On October 8, 2015, Philadelphia Youth Basketball, Inc. started a new dialogue…
A wide range of basketball stakeholders were present. Claude Gross represented the Sonny Hill League. Don DiJulia, Saint Joseph’s University’s Athletic Director was reunited with his Sweet 16 backcourt of Rashid Bey and Terrell Myers. Fran Dunphy and Steve Donahue, respectively, represented their Temple University and Pennsylvania University basketball programs. Kamal Yard (Philly Pride), Myers (WeROne), Eric Worley (Philly Triple Threat) and Bey (Team Final) represented three of the more prominent and influential AAU/Grassroots programs in the region. Justin Scott, Arcadia University and Rudy Wise II, Rosemont, held it down for the small colleges. Camden was represented by Tyrone Pitts and Larry Yarbray was flying the Chester High flag.
Tryone Pitts (Penn), Rashid Bey (SJU), Fran Dunphy (Temple), Claude Gross (Sonny Hill League), Dr. Scott Brooks (Missouri)
What was most interesting about this gathering was the fact that the game of basketball was never mentioned over the course of more than 2 hours. The discussion focused squarely on how the Philly basketball community can develop, harness and leverage social capital that can be utilized to further the social, educational and emotional development of young people or “our guys” as Dr. Scott Brooks described them.
Held in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, the “Roundtable Discussion” was led by Dr. Brooks, Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri. Dr. Howard C. Stevenson, Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education at the University of Pennsylvania and Stephanie A. Tryce, J.D., Assistant Professor of Sports Marketing were also in attendance.
Kenny Holdsman and Eric Worley outlined their vision and plans to build a state of the art, basketball-based youth development center in the heart of North Philadelphia. Holdsman passionately posited that when you create opportunities for young people to develop their potential as students, athletes, and responsible engaged citizens, the individual and the community will thrive. Basketball, for Holdsman and Worley, is more than a game. Their efforts are undergirded by extensive research demonstrating that sports foster growth and development physically, academically, and socially.
Towards that end, Holdsman noted that they have begun building a professional organization and initiated fundraising efforts to construct a $25 million state-of-the-art, basketball-based youth development center in the heart of North Philadelphia. This 120,000 square foot facility will have 8 indoor and 8 outdoor courts including a 2,000 seat indoor competition court. It will also feature an education wing with a library, classrooms, computer lab, and a community engagement center.
Worley explained that they simply could not wait for construction to be concluded to begin serving Philadelphia’s young people. As a result, in a couple of weeks they are initiating the PYB School Partnership Pilot Program. Through this pilot program, PYB will provide programming in eight-week intervals (fall, winter & spring) for middle-school aged students at four school partners located in the North, Northwest, and Southwest regions of the city. Programming will be held at the location of the four school partners twice a week during after-school hours and every Saturday at Temple University and/or another Philadelphia area college or university. The program will focus on academic support, homework help, study skills, time management, tutoring, high school selection, leadership, character development, health and nutrition, family engagement, and basketball skill-building and competition. All participants will receive basketball uniforms.
Fran Dunphy & Claude Gross
Claude Gross shared stories from his experiences over the past 55 years with the Charles Baker and Sonny Hill Leagues. Gross explained that the Hill league was never about producing NBA basketball players. Rather it was always about producing middle class young men that could provide for themselves and their families and become positive contributing members of society.
Finally, there was a magisterial presentation by Dr. Brooks, a protege of Philly Schoolboy legend Claude Gross. While pursuing a Ph.D. in sociology at the University, Brooks spent four years coaching under Gross in the Sonny Hill League basketball. The result of his research was an extremely insightful and nuanced book, Black Men Can’t Shoot (University of Chicago Press). For those interested in gaining a better understanding of the multi-layered intersections of urban education and scholastic sports, it is a must read.
In his presentation, Dr. Brooks deftly described what he saw, heard, and felt working with the young black men in the Hill league. His discussion of the manner in which the Claude Gross, Fred Douglass, Vince Miller, John Hardnett, Tee Shields and others utilized their social networks and expended their social capital was both informative and captivating.
Stephen Pina, a sports attorney with ASM Sports exclaimed, “that was the best talk I’ve heard… Dr. Scott is able to convey his academic work in a very ‘REAL’ manner.” Kamal Yard said, “He articulated everything I have been saying and thinking for the past 10 years.” Rashid Bey reported, “I thought about that presentation all night.”
Perry Clark, South Carolina Assistant Coach, Terrell Myers and Rashid Bey
There will be subsequent “Roundtable Discussions” sponsored by Philadelphia Youth Basketball, Inc. and Black Cager Urban Sports Media. Updates will will be available on this website.