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Midnight Tip-offs Begin Thursday in Durham

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DURHAM — Hoop dreams are tipping off Thursday night in Durham. Players are walkingon the court to play in the first midnight basketball league. They're hoping for more than just a shot at winning games. For them, basketballmay open doors to better opportunities.

On a typical night, many young men would be on the streets with nothing todo. Instead, they are on the courts of the Durham YMCA. It's part of theTriangle's new midnight basketball league.

The objective is more than just getting people off the streets. OrganizerJames Johnson says the goal of midnight basketball is to reconnect young,idle, minority males with mainstream employment opportunities. Basketball, he says, is merely the hook.

Johnson predicts basketball will build bridges to education or the jobmarket. That process starts 30 minutes before each game. It's amandatory personal responsibility session. The players work on self esteem, conflict management , and making themselves more marketable forjobs.

Players are given uniforms and shoes, and then the action begins. Johnsonsays not only does the midnight league encourage basketball andsportsmanship, but it also brings a lot of the youth together and teaches asense of harmony.

Johnson says he has already seen these players take it to the next level on the basketball court. Now they must learn to take it to the next levelin life.

"It warms my heart to see so many young men stepping up to the three pointline," Johnson says. "and taking a shot for success in their ownlives."

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