Inspired to help the youth understand the importance of being of service to themselves and to the community, the nonprofit organization "What’s Next Pine Bluff" and the Youth Basketball League will host a charity basketball game.
Alumni from both Pine Bluff High School and Dollarway High School will battle for a cause at Belair Middle School from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15.
“The goal is to teach young men how to be servants and the importance of serving those in their community,” said Executive Director of What’s Next Pine Bluff Nathaniel Baker. “We are focusing on developing student-athletes and providing enrichment.”
The halftime show will consist of performances by the Kappa League and Diamonds Are Forever dance team.
All proceeds from the basketball game will be used to purchase Christmas gifts and food for the elderly at Davis Life Center.
“Sometimes the people in the nursing homes end up going without and don’t have anyone to come visit them,” Baker said. “We want young men to see that and also to help them have a better day and a better holiday.”
The youth will spend time at the nursing home for the holiday while also visiting, playing games, and helping to uplift the spirits of the patients.
Alumni from both high schools will come back to the city to participate in the charity event. Participants are traveling from Texas, Bentonville, Oklahoma, etc.
Some participants include players from the Pine Bluff High School 2003 Championship team including Brian Cal, Kerry Coleman, Jerome Addison, Carlos Moore, Marcus Adams, and Brandon Stigger.
“It means a lot to be playing in this charity event,” said Martin Washington, an alumni basketball player for Dollarway High School. “It’s for a great cause and we love playing basketball, so anytime we get a chance to play, we play. This is something positive for the community and these guys are doing a great thing while giving their time and effort.”
The charity event, which will become an annual event, is the first event leading up to the official ribbon cutting for the Youth Basketball League on January 12 at Belair Middle School.
YBL is a recreational basketball league for youth 5-17 years of age, being established by Pine Bluff natives Lucas Armstrong and Brian Cal in partnership with What’s Next Pine Bluff.
“This is an opportunity for us to help get these young men into doing something positive,” said Baker. “Sports teach discipline and this gives us the opportunity to mix the medicine with the food.”
According to the league’s Facebook page, the mission of the league is to engage youth through athletic, educational, and social development initiatives. The league proudly supports a variety of activities that encourage leadership, build character, enhance confidence, and strengthen athletic and social skills.
With a commitment to social responsibility, the YBL will reach youth on and off the court through extended, multi-month opportunities to reinforce life skills, player development and the formation of deep relationships between teammates and coaches. Players will experience a passion for basketball, establish a competitive spirit, and discover skills imperative to succeed both on and off the court.
YBL stems from the Youth Basketball Association that no longer exists. In an effort to continue the legacy, Cal and Armstrong decided to create their own league, treating the youth basketball players as professionals now while also developing life skills and creating lasting relationships.
Armstrong stated that basketball has been a huge part of the culture growing up in Pine Bluff. Many of the youth from his generation played in the Youth Basketball Association and it “kept us out of trouble. We all came together and played with no problems.”
“YBL is so important to me because I didn’t have an opportunity like this when I was growing up,” said Coach Kelsey ‘Kelso’ Alexander. “Having an opportunity to help the youth and show them what I didn’t have; that they don’t have to go through what I went through, is a big deal, and a lot of children don’t understand. I want the youth to know that they can do anything they put their minds to.”