MIAMI GARDENS — The Nationwide youth basketball team dominated the city of Miami Gardens Youth Invitational Basketball Tournament, winning the 11 and under and the 15 and under categories.The Miami Gardens Ballers won in the 9 and under category and D-Basketball triumphed in the 13 and under category.
The tournament was played for the second year in a row at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex April 11-12 and was aimed at keeping kids involved in sports and staying active, organizers said.
State Sen. Oscar Braynon, who started the tournament, was present, along with Miami Gardens Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro, who is a sponsor.
Braynon has made it a signature event. After being elected to office in 2003, he wanted to give kids an environment to nurture their skills. The event has been around since 2004 as an outdoor activity but recently moved indoors.
“I wanted to help develop the talents of these kids and give them an opportunity,” Braynon said. “We usually held it outside but wanted a safer place for kids.”
Some 16 teams, comprising 175 players, took part in the games over the two days, divided into age groups, and were drawn from places such as Overtown and South Miami, in addition to the host city.
“To make sure every kid goes home happy, each age group winner receives a trophy, including the runner-up,” said Shantelle Smith, administrative assistant at the city of Miami Gardens. “All participants will receive medals and a backpack with a snack and information kit on Miami Gardens park events.”
Braynon and Ighodaro described the tournament as an outlet for the kids “to be constructive” and a way to help stop gun violence, such as the shooting of Keimouria Gardner, 17, a bystander struck in the head by a bullet at a Little River Park in Miami.
“This gives kids something else to do to avoid senseless killings and gang warfare,” Braynon said. “Activities like this can stop the senseless killing here in Miami Gardens,” added Ighodaro.
The players enjoyed themselves.
“I thought I played good,” said Brian Duncan, 13. “I ran point and made some great assist for my team to get this win.”
“I scored well and made sure I played the role my coach gave to me,” added Jaheim Merritt, 11. Johnny Ford, 14, said he had a “so-so game” but promised to play better next time.
Parents were pleased their children had an opportunity to play.“My boys love basketball,” said Eric Piner, who had two sons in the tournament. “They had basketball hoops in their cribs. Now they can really show off their skills.”