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.
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.
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.