• Josh Kamuhanda

Local AAU classic Teaches Life Lessons Through Competition


SEVERNA PARK, MD-- As most of you enjoyed a weekend filled with sand, sun and fireworks, HYPE Radio enjoyed a different kind of holiday fun -- the sixth annual Capitol City Hoop Classic. For our former hoopers on The Huddle, it was a classic Memorial Day weekend with AAU basketball at the forefront. The tournament spanned over three locations and included over 80 young mens & womens’ teams, ages 9-17, hailing from all over the east coast.

In hoops’ culture, communities in places like New York, the DMV, and North Carolina are known for the level of talent they produce. In today’s world of AAU basketball, the big brands are the puppet masters, controlling who the best amateurs play for and who those teams play against. With that template, it’s common to lose track of the innocence and genuine camaraderie that AAU basketball is meant to breed. That’s not the case with this tournament.

Organized by Mel George and The Basketball Group (TBG), the tournament’s philosophy is clear: all sports should enrich and improve the quality of life for all involved.

“Our objective is to bring first class organization and core support,” George put it. “We want to focus on under the radar kids who are worthy of playing college basketball, that otherwise wouldn’t be able to garner the exact attention they deserve.

Last year, four young athletes earned college scholarship offers. Another three from this year’s holiday weekend earned scholarships.

Still, the word “all” umbrellas more than just young players. George empowers young men and women with responsibility throughout the tournament’s inner workings. Whether it’s at the concessions, behind cameras, or reporters at the event’s press conferences, his commitment to youth development fills each venue.

That commitment undeniably bolsters this tournament’s value. Through a partnership with TD Bank, TBG has hosted a Financial Literacy Program each year of the tournament’s existence. Using worksheets and exercises, the program introduces all the real-life expenses that accompany adulthood. They start with a choice among 35 possible non-athletic careers marked with annual salaries and level of higher education. Lifestyle choices follow, as the players sift through monthly home, car, grocery and leisure expenses, to name a few. The sum of their income minus expenses either affirm or humble these young men and women of their future plans.

In short, the program leads them to realistically ponder a plan B. Ditu Kasuyi, the director of the program, raves of its impact and the potential for these young kids.

“Playing [team sports] automatically makes these young people easily employable,” Kasuyi told me over the weekend. “They’re more than just basketball players. Athletes are easy to work with, take direction, have initiative, strategize, and handle themselves well under pressure.”

It’s great to want to make it to the league, but as Kasuyi put it, “you have to be willing to do something else.”

For such a large tournament, its organization and fluidity is admirable. Rick Narcisse, the other half of HYPE Radio’s The Huddle, is head coach for Full Court Academy’s 16u girls team. AsI scavenged for interviews, he put on his eye black and led his team to battle. By tourney’s end, its first impression on Narcisse garnered big praise.

“It was very well organized and efficient,” Narcisse said, as he joked about a game starting early. “Tournament atmosphere is always fun. The hunger, intensity...you can feel it. The competition was really good for our team, and everyone was pretty evenly matched.”

The praise is a compliment to George, who was basically raised at tournaments like these. His father, Arnold George, Jim Wiggins and others, ran the DC Urban Coalition, a summer basketball league that helped birth the plethora of talent-filled summer leagues we see across the nation today.

“It was the top summer league in the country at one point, and this is a continuation for that,” said George. “I ran the concession stands at age 12, worked the [game] clock by 14 and coached into my lower 20s.”

He really was bred for it, and now he uses that experience to breed our communities’ next generation of respected men and women.


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