Find Your Program Here

April 25, 2016

Shout-Out to 109th Street Alum

Shout-Out to 109th Street Alum

MOTIVATIONAL MONDAY – Today is otherwise known as my basketball hangover day. We are closed on Mondays. I always tell myself it’s my off day, but honestly, as an entrepreneur, it’s that day you need to catch up on all things paperwork, schedules, and customer follow-up.

The highlights of today include that we have about 4-6 other programs interested in our local spring league with one-off games, and maybe one early June weekend tournament. Yet the best part of today was when I clicked over to a photo of Avery Parker, who used to live on my block up at 109th Street (same street where Obama lived when he was at Columbia University). Avery and Malik were year-round regulars at Mo’ Motion from about grade 5 through grade 8. We met them through the Beacon/Scan program in the first year of the GBA league that our program formed. I remember the day that my friend and a GBA league referee, Malcolm Bailey, threw Avery out of the game. As commissioner of the league, I had to react, and honestly, I was a little shocked at how quickly Malcolm blew his whistle and jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

I was close enough to Malcolm for him to hear me say, “What did he do?”

“Talking back all the time,” Malcolm said.

“So you tossed him?”

“He has to learn now. Or it will be too late.”

I walked out and met Avery in the hallway of Booker T Washington School, and talked to him as his big, wide eyes cried in frustration and embarrassment. His mother joined us. He tried to blame Malcolm. He asked over and over, “What did I do?” We all agreed he had to work on his temper. I reminded him that he could not get another technical. If he did, he would be out of the league according to league rules. It was tough thing to tell an 11-year-old, yet it had to be made clear. I think we both agreed that it was good form to make sure he went up to Malcolm after the game and apologized. I can’t say for sure if that is how we ended it, but I am sure that his mother and I agreed that Avery was accountable.

Avery made it through the season without another T. The team wasn’t as strong or as organized as he hoped. He and his buddy, Malik, started seeing me every weekend, walking to our practices just a few blocks away. They asked if they could join the workouts. I said yes. They played with us for a few years, then like most of the kids who come to us this way, they get skilled enough to play for what they feel is a higher level. (Malik made the Gauchos and I think Avery did, too. Both were on Riverbank for a while. Souley, Laquan made Riverside.) Their making another team is only a higher level if you measure raw ability and not quality of play or development of all players on the team. But what Malik and Avery did not get at the next level aka “AAU,” was enough development hours. We let them back into our practices – no questions asked – as they carried on with what in their minds was a better “date” and put us second. I remember them always attending our June camps at The Brearley Fieldhouse after school let out. They took all the drills seriously and executed. Our policy has changed on how to handle players like this now, but I have no regrets about helping the kids along as far as we did with what gym time, coaches, and passion we had to offer.

Avery, who is the same age as most of the kids in our first official class – mostly kids heading into their senior year – recently moved to Staten Island to live with his dad. Based on this clip, it looks like he is enjoying the game and the fruits of his hard work.