Mayor, Isiah Thomas announce expansion of basketball program - FOX 32 News Chicago

Mayor, Isiah Thomas announce basketball program for at-risk youth

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined NBA Hall of Famer and Chicago basketball legend Isiah Thomas Tuesday to announce the expansion of the successful community basketball program, called "Windy City Hoops."

The goal of the city's new program is to provide a safe environment for at-risk teenagers throughout Chicago, keeping them out of harm's way.

FOX 32's Darlene Hill spent some time with Mayor Emanuel and Isiah Thomas on the court. When handed a basketball and asked to take a shot, the mayor said the program is not really a game for him--it's about giving some teenagers a much needed opportunity.

"These are great kids," Emanuel said. "We just got to give them an opportunity to show their greatness."

It may be a friendly game of basketball for some, but for many Chicago teens, it's not only a good time, but something to do to stay safe.

"It's kind of sad this is happening," high school sophomore Greg Magee says. "This is a good idea that keeps people active because when you're active you can't do anything bad."

Last spring, when the faith-based community, a number of NBA players, and rival gangs packed the gym at St. Sabina, nay-sayers predicted a battle and nothing happened. So, the mayor, the Chicago Park District and some basketball players said it's time to play again and keep the ball dribbling.

"The message that the kids will hear--you will hear--will be all positive conflict resolution," Thomas says. "How do you resolve conflict? You know instead of fighting you know, best of ten."

Late night ball will be back this spring every Friday and Saturday until 10 o'clock at ten gyms across the city—in Chicago neighborhoods with high crime, guns, and gangs--like Austin, Englewood and North Lawndale. Teenage boys ages 13 to 17 are encouraged to come and the basketball court is gang free.

"We're not expecting problems," Vaughn Bryant of the Chicago Park District says. "We want it to be a safe zone and hopefully when good people show up that will be how the culture is built."

The late night leagues should be up and running in March. Park district officials and the mayor say they want the kids in the gym before spring break.

To make a donation to support the purchase of a jersey, pay a referee for a game, reserve a court or support another part of the program, visit cityofchicago.org/hoops.

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