This summer and last were extremely difficult times for many student-athletes that look to work on their skills during those months off from school. They utilize the numerous camps, summer leagues and tournaments to improve.
Most of the programs were shut down last year due to COVID. And not all have been restarted this summer due to the late notice that came from Albany and City Hall giving them a greenlight to return to normal activities. Official notification did not come early enough for some programs to resume. But because of diligent preparation, after a one-year absence––their first interruption in 41 years––the Pre-Teen Classic, held annually in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was ready to go.
It was started in 1980 by a group of friends from Brooklyn, led by city postal worker, Kevin Bushell, until his untimely death in 2002. Held at the playground of P.S. 305 located at 344 Monroe Street, between Marcy and Tompkins Avenues, the tournament, which usually features eight to 10 teams, was scaled down to six this summer. The participating programs are the Young Bucs coached by Jamar Cummings and Kenny Harper, Hoops 4 Health, coached by Deron Rippey and Mr. Reeves, the Stompers, coached by Darius Waters, BK Rulerz, coached by Bryan Smith and Louis McClean, the Future Stars, coached by Kaydin Sanchez and Patrick Akande, and the Raiders, coached by Elvin Ramirez.
“For undisclosed reasons, the Raiders were disqualified,” league commissioner George Littlejohn informed the AmNews. Disqualifications, forfeits, and rain delays are part of the issues summer league coaches face, as are securing teams, referees, and scheduling. “Teams usually play a 14-game summer season, but will only play eight this year,” said Littlejohn, a devoted Knicks and Mets fan.
In order to provide an opportunity to some student-athletes that were denied a chance to play last summer due to the league’s cancellation, Littlejohn and the Pre-Teen staff waived some rules for their tourney this summer.
“We’ve allowed players whose eligibility to play ended last season, to play this year,” he explained. “That means that the player can be no older than 13 years old at the start of the season, and can turn 14 after it starts.” Prior to this temporary change, the age is 12, and the player can turn 13.
“Through absolutely no fault of their own, young athletes lost a year of playing organized ball at an important age of their social and athletic development,” explained Littlejohn, with a strong understanding of the issues that student-athletes experience.
“Players are mentally and physically trying to catch up to make up for the year that they lost,” noted Adande, the Future Stars coach. “You can’t get that back.”
Excited about the return of play as much as the athletes, Cummings, coach of the Young Bucs, expressed the feelings of many supporters of summer hoops tournaments and leagues. “New York youth basketball is back. It’s amazing to see what these young players can do. Many have been working hard and waiting a year to show their growth.”
Pre-Teen Classic play-off games will take place tomorrow and Saturday. The championship is scheduled for Friday, August 20th.