The Drew League: More Than a Game

Players from No Shnacks and Sole Clinics battle at the rim during a Drew League game on Sunday, July 27. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
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Students at the Sixth Annual Drew League Foundation Scholarship Award gala that took place at the Carson Community Center in Carson, California. Photo Credit: Drew League Foundation

The  Drew League is a lot more than putting on  a host of basketball games. It is  a lot more than a summer basketball league that fills the stands with curious-seeking fans while NBA players and local ballers perfect their hoops skills. The Drew League was created and is an inspiration to give at-risk and challenged youths an outlet of positive enforcement through the art of sports. So far, so good.

The  number of lives that Drew League Founder Alvin Willis and current director Oris “Dino” Smiley and the Drew League Foundation staff have saved and put on the right path can’t be measured by a 3-point shot or by the spectacle of a monster dunk. Life is a lot more than a basketball game.

 

Drew League Foundation Founder Oris "Dino" Smiley
Drew League Foundation Founder Oris “Dino” Smiley

But basketball was the starting point for something that has turned out to be something good for the South Los Angeles and Watts community. The Drew League is the pulse of this community. It is the unheralded pipeline that has snatched away the surrounding negativity of street life that encompasses gangs, drug peddling and other questionable and undesired activities.

The appearances of NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kevin Durant (OKC Thunder), Brandon Jennings (Dominguez High School, Detroit Pistons), DeMar DeRozan (Compton High School, Toronto Raptors), Nick Young (Los Angeles Lakers), J.R. Smith (New York Knicks), James Harden (Houston Rockets), and others have certified the Drew League as the best summer basketball league in the country.

However, what it also does is dismiss the longstanding stereotype and myth that nothing good can come out of South Los Angeles or from the Watts community. There is plenty of good.

Drew League Foundation Honorary Board Member and former NBA player Baron Davis (right) attends the foundation's awards gala.
Drew League Foundation Honorary Board Member and former NBA player Baron Davis (right) attends the foundation’s awards gala.

The strengths of South Los Angeles and other surrounding urban communities are exemplified when we see people like Brandon Jennings, former NFL star Antonio Pierce and DeMar DeRozan consciously give back to  their communities. What we don’t acknowledge are the numerous law enforcement personnel, the nurses, the doctors, the educators and philanthropists that work and live in South Los Angeles that make a difference everyday.

Sure, these community heroes are not going to make the highlight reel on ESPN, but it is these individuals who make a greater impact on this community through their everyday experiences. What the NBA players do through the Drew League is help solidify this fact when they choose to participate in playing games in the annual summer league tournament.

The Drew League Foundation is an extension of that goodwill.  Created by Smiley, the Drew League Foundation, with the help and assistance of honorary board members that include former NBA star Baron Davis, current NBA referee Derrick Richardson, board members Allen Cavaness and Mike Montgomery, have grown to be the right hand of the Drew League.   The foundation, which recently held its Sixth Annual Drew League Foundation Scholarship Award gala, provides life skills, college prep training and career development for at-risk youths, is the perfect example of what is good in South Los Angeles.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Hill (right) is all smiles at the annual Drew League Foundation Awards gala. Photo Credit: Drew League Foundation
Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Hill (right) is all smiles at the annual Drew League Foundation Awards gala. Photo Credit: Drew League Foundation

 

 

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1151 Articles

Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.