Hooping it up at Hillcrest
|Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Charles Holland of the Lakers takes a shot despite heavy pressure from Hilltop Magic players Derek Nibert (behind) and Josh Igo (front).
Nestled between two buildings on West Broad Street is the most happening place to be on a Friday night.
People are hanging out of the windows trying to catch a glimpse, while passersby stop at the wrought iron fence to watch the action. Older teens wait patiently in chairs, while adults soak up the atmosphere and beam with pride.
The draw is an open space, music, painted lines, two hoops, competition - all of it friendly - and organized games of basketball.
Some of the players are flashy and some show strength by playing with an arm cast on, but it's clear the spectators love the show these middle school aged children are putting on.
With team names like the Lakers and Magic, the participants are all part of the Hilltop Hoops program put on by local businesses and Hillcrest Baptist Church.
Hilltop Hoops was created five years ago after a local boy asked church leaders if he and a few of his friends could use one of their parking lots to play basketball. They agreed to his request and thought establishing a summer league for grades 6-9 would be a great way to bring the community together and to keep children out of trouble during their summer vacation.
"This is a place where kids can come to get off the street," said Hilltop Hoops director and Greater Hilltop Area Commission member Dave Horn. "It's an organized activity that is fun, safe and a great place to hang out."
"With Friday nights on the Hilltop, a lot of things happen, some positive and some not so positive," said Hillcrest Baptist Church Pastor Tim Lee. "I think this is something the community really wanted. The children were really hungry to have something positive to do, and I think the community is as well."
Lee said they had thought about building a small gymnasium in place of where the basketball courts/parking lot is now, but didn't know if people would actually use the facility.
"I think it worked out for the best," he said. "There are no real walls on the lot so people feel a connection to the place and that's an attractive thing."
The fifth season of the Hilltop Hoops program kicked off June 5 with only two teams, but via rapid word of neighborhood mouth, four more teams had signed up before the end of the night.
They will continue to play every Friday, weather permitting, from 6-8 p.m. at the adjacent lot of the Hillcrest Baptist Church (located at 2480 West Broad St.) until July 3 when they will hold their annual tournament. And if Friday's game was any indication, it appears as if the Hilltop Lakers are taking after their counterparts in Los Angeles and will be the team to beat.
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