Summer basketball leagues, the mountaintop of pickup basketball, are about to resume their annual blossom in Black urban and suburban communities of the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area.
Why? According to Suburban Coalition Pro-Am League Commissioner Howard Hill, it’s the best way to have fun and stay out of trouble at the same time.
“We use organized basketball as a vehicle to captivate the attention of youths and even adults, keeping their minds and bodies motivated to spend their free time more productively while avoiding situations that can have you sidetracked in life,” said Hill, who will soon host his 21st annual Suburban Pro-Am Men’s and Women’s League at the Capital Sports Complex in District Heights, Md., along with other youth summer basketball camps. League play begins June 26.
Hill told the AFRO how proud he is of how the efforts in the Prince George’s County region for more than 20 years have resulted in an outlet to burn energy while networking with others in a positive way.
D.C. sports legend Miles Rawls echoed a similar vision of summer league basketball in a recent AFRO interview about hoops along the Suitland Parkway at a recreation center in a tough-as-nails community known as Barry Farms.
Rawls runs the George Goodman League, dubbed by outsiders as the D.C. version of Harlem’s Rucker Tournament, a fabled New York City summer league. The Goodman League, originally named the Barry Farms Community summer league, has been around for nearly half-a-century and has developed into the premiere arena for high school, college and even National Basketball Association players to catch a game of high-level pickup ball during the summer offseason.
Located in Southeast D.C., the Barry Farms community basketball court is where hundreds of fans turn out Monday through Friday to catch the famous Goodman games. On a good night, fans may catch several NBA stars, such as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant or Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley, come out to put on a free hoops show.
The Goodman League has become so successful that many of its supporters have been inspired to develop the same sense of organized basketball in other sections of the District.
Jeff Johnson, who coached in the Goodman League for more than 10 years, teamed up with playground legend Curt Smith two summers ago to start up the Watts League, a summer basketball league that plays five miles away in Watts Branch Park along Division Avenue in Northeast D.C.
“To see the community come together like that as a whole, and I’m not just talking Southeast, D.C. but folks from all over the city and P.G. [County], come together to support our basketball players with no negativity involved, it was amazing to be a part of,” said Johnson, who coached many of the high-profiled players who have been featured in the Goodman League over the years.
Johnson told the AFRO that he and Smith simply want to bring that same positive vibe to his side of town. “There are a lot of rumors around that the Watts League doesn’t get along with Goodman League, but that’s not the case,” said Johnson, a finalist for the 2012 Steve Harvey Hoodie Awards Coach of the Year honor. “We’re just expanding the same magic into our neighborhood.”
Johnson confirmed with the AFRO that there will be a friendly battle of D.C. between the Goodman League All-Stars and the Watts League All-Stars June 24 at the newly renovated Barry Farms community court.
The Goodman Coalition, a combination of the Goodman League and the former Urban Coalition, will also begin its second year June 23, hosting basketball games every Saturday and Sunday at Spingarn High School in Northeast D.C.
The Goodman League will also host the Nike World Basketball Challenge in July, another strong indicator that the Barry Farms-based league has done wonders for rebuilding the bad reputation that neighborhood once held.
“They used to say we can’t have nothing on our end of town… that we can’t act civilized,” said Dion Johnson, a regular fan of the Goodman League for about a decade. “But the best thing that happens in this city every summer is the Goodman League. And I’m proud to see how far we’ve taken it with so much more to come in the future!”