2017-11-09 / Sports

A League Of Their Own

By Jason Linetsky

Eight youth basketball teams from across New York City have a new place to play with the formation of a league in East Flatbush.

The New American Academy Charter School (NAACS), 9301 Avenue B, will host the games, which will include highly skilled teams such as the New York Gauchos from the Bronx, Elmcor from Queens, Positive Direction from Queens, The Crew from Brooklyn and the New York Lightning, which is a citywide program. All players will be 11 years old and under (11U) with possibly more teams added to the league each year. The NAACS team, made up of 18 kids chosen from recent tryouts, will be trained until their skills match up well with the competition, then join the league towards the end of the first season.

The league is the brainchild of the school’s Director of Operations Matt Harrington, who created it after a simple interaction with a misbehaving student.

“We have a student support team for students with individual education plans and behavioral issues,” stated Harrington. “We had one student who wasn’t behaving in class. Our staff member in charge of his behavioral plan asked me if I could shoot a basketball with him for a few minutes as a reward if he behaved in class. I had played basketball most of my life so I said sure. We started just with him shooting around then it turned into asking him the next week if he wanted to bring some friends to play two-on-two.”

It snowballed from there. Every Friday, they played after lunch if the student had a good week. They added staff and started a March Madness-type of tournament with a team bracket. The kids loved it.

Seeing the popularity skyrocket, Harrington approached Tyrone Davis, a teacher assistant for the school’s kindergarten classes. After playing professional basketball in Australia, the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic, Davis turned to coaching programs around the city when he is not teaching.

Davis explained how the team and the league will work. “We want to enhance the kid’s basketball knowledge and get them better as athletes, as players and run a league here that can go on for a few years. We want to build the league up and make this into a basketball type school. This will be considered a 5th grade league 11U, so we will have kids who are 4th grade but play up and we will have some 6th graders who are 11 years old. They fit the 11 and under range for an ‘11U’ program.”

Davis and Harrington are teaching the NAACS kids the skills needed to be in the league with the goal to make the team ready to join the others by April. They will split the kids into teams to scrimmage against each other, then progress up a skill ladder of visiting teams, until they are ready for the established teams.

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