Durham basketball program helps players build character

Posted May 6, 2012 10:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2012 7:09 a.m. EDT

— A Durham summer youth basketball program presses greatness both off and on the court.

About 2,000 players tried out Sunday for Don's Basketball League, part of the anti-gang organization Campaign 4 Change. The league is free, but it requires players to do community service.

"There's a desperate need for it," said league founder Vegas Don. "Our kids are losing respect for elders, so we have them go out to rest homes."

Shean Thorp said his parents can't afford to let him play in other competitive leagues in the area, but this program lets him shoot hoops and gain experiences that will help his future.

"I'm here to play basketball," he said, but "volunteering helps you get into college."

Vegas Don started the league about four years ago. In addition to basketball and community service, players take character-building, money management and other educational workshops.

"The basketball is the hook for them," he said. "At the end of the day, we want them to be a better person."

Players say they're gaining more than basketball skills.

"The basic concept is giving back to the community," said Avion Jordan. "When life knocks you down, just get back up. It's not how hard you get hit and stay down. It's how hard you're willing to work for everything."