MLK basketball weekend extends well beyond court

This article originally appeared in the Shopper News on January 21, 2015.

KCDC welcomed 130 basketball players and their coaches from public housing agencies across the region for the Martin Luther King Jr. Basketball Challenge, an enrichment event that has been
held for two decades.

The basketball tournament does more than provide a chance for tremendous athletes from across the Southeast to compete.

It also impacts the lives of youth residing in public housing by offering a weekend of cultural experiences and educational opportunities.

The Southeastern Regional Council-National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (SERC-NAHRO) established the basketball tournament, and Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation and the Emerald Youth Foundation helped to host the teams.

“It’s a real privilege to work with KCDC on the tournament,” said John Crooks, Emerald Youth Foundation marketing and communications director. “Sports like basketball allow us to connect with kids and help them grow as leaders who give back to their neighborhoods and communities. It was a tremendous experience for these young people from across the Southeast to see what Knoxville and East Tennessee have to offer.”

The Emerald Youth Foundation provided space for the tournament. The public housing authority teams included: “The Bobcats” of Bowling Green, Ky.; “Eufala Housing” of Eufala, Ala.; “Showtymers” of Bessemer, Ala.; “Statesville Eagles” of Statesville, N.C.; “Alex City Lakers” of Alexander City, Ala.; “LHA Thunder” of Laurel, Miss.; “Hard Flight” of Birmingham, Ala.; and “Opp Bobcats” of Opp, Ala.

The teams were divided into three age categories, and tournament-style elimination games took place Jan. 17 with championship contests for each age group on Jan. 18 at the Emerald Youth Foundation’s gym.

In addition to playing basketball, the Emerald Youth Foundation arranged for the teams to enjoy cultural and educational activities throughout the weekend. The players had the opportunity to tour Haley Farm, the historic home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley and site of the Children’s Defense Fund; and Green McAdoo Cultural Center, which commemorates the desegregation
of Clinton High School. The basketball teams also were invited to participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission Annual MLK March Parade on Jan. 19. Although we had some great competition, this weekend was about so much more than basketball.

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