July 26, 2017
CHICAGO - Earlier this month, the DePaul men’s and women’s basketball partnered with Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council for the 11th annual “Hoops in the Hood” neighborhood basketball games. This summer’s collaboration was the first time DePaul’s programs and Hoops in the Hood partnered together.
According to the LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago) webpage, Hoops in the Hood is a summer youth program that strives to promote peace and unity in the community through basketball. The games work to take back the streets from gangs and violence, by setting up public safety “hot spots” in parks and on blocks that most residents avoid on an average summer night. Players are between the ages of 10-17 years old and come from different neighborhoods across the city.
Kevin Edwards and Lisa Ryckbosch, DePaul’s directors of community, corporate & professional relations with men’s and women’s basketball, respectively, and Dave Corzine, who oversees DePaul’s community relations efforts spearheaded DePaul’s involvement in the community service outreach with Hoops in the Hood.
Eli Cain, Brandon Cyrus, Tre McCallum, Jaylen Butz, Paul Reed and Justin Roberts of the men’s basketball team represented the Blue Demons while Amarah Coleman, Tanita Allen, Deja Cage, Bekah Dahlman, Marte Grays, Claire McMahon, Ashton Millender and Vinisha Sherrod volunteered on behalf of the women’s basketball program.
Edwards, who identified Hoops in the Hood as a way to get DePaul student-athletes involved in the community, was enthusiastic about the experience for both the neighborhood kids and his players.
“We have an obligation to take our guys over there and give back to the community.” Edwards said. “Coach Leitao wants us to be involved in the community, and this was a perfect chance to go and do that.”
“I think they [the neighbor kids] really enjoyed it first of all.” Edwards continued. “They were very attentive and received skill instruction. More than anything, I hope they were inspired to dream big, and hopefully some of them will be motivated to play college basketball and continue their education after high school. We also focused on talking about academics, and so with those two things being our focus, I think they learned a lot and were very appreciative of us coming by there.”
Hoops in the Hood presented itself as a great opportunity for the Blue Demons to work with a program whose mission paralleled their own according to Ryckbosch.
“We always like to be involved in the community, and this was a particularly attractive opportunity because the concept behind Hoops in the Hood was providing kids a safe place to get involved and to get them off the streets. That is definitely a concept we support,” Ryckbosch said. “We were able to share our basketball expertise with them and are always happy to do that for an organization that is doing something so positive in our community.”
“Since it was an actual basketball clinic we did drills, but we also took some time to speak to them about how important it is to do well in school.” Ryckbosch continued. “We always brag about our women’s basketball team because we are not only a good basketball team, but we do great things in the classroom as well while consistently being ranked in the Top 25 on the court and academically.”
For Corzine, a summer basketball league was an ideal medium to get DePaul’s community service mission out because Hoops in the Hood emphasizes staying active and playing sports.
“Summer basketball leagues work well for us to be involved with and help us get our message out about the importance of athletics and kids getting involved in sports while staying out of the street and safe,” Corzine said. “This area is in need of programs like this and we are excited that we can assist them in their mission.”
Amarah Coleman, a rising senior on DePaul’s women’s team, jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the Hoops in the Hood initiative.
“Hoops in the Hood, or any service project we do as a team, is always important because we like to give back to the community and show our appreciation to others while building awareness in the younger generation that you can do anything in life,” Coleman said. “We continually express the importance of staying in school and getting good grades and push the idea that sports can help you get good grades.
Coleman concluded, “The experience of working with kids and dealing with different personalities allows me to also grow and put myself in their shoes and see their struggles and challenges. I like teaching other kids the game of basketball and emphasizing to them how importance of staying in school.”