(FOX 9) – The organizers of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day high school basketball show hope the sport will help build bridges and bring together student-athletes from different communities.
The event hosted by the Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association was held on the Benilde-Saint Margaret’s campus in Saint Louis Park.
For Minneapolis North High star Willie Wilson, playing in the first Martin Luther King Junior Cultural Showcase was extra special. He sees the day as a celebration of black history and an opportunity to honor the legacy of the civil rights icon.
“Some people really don’t know about Martin Luther King, who he is, and what happened to Martin Luther King,” Wilson said. “So just using this day to bring teams together through basketball and through education to teach them about the history of Martin Luther King Day, it really is, because some people just see it as a day off from the work or a day off from school. And it’s deeper than that.”
That’s exactly what the leaders of the Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association hoped for when they hosted the event, which featured three games pitting three urban high schools against three out-of-state teams, including North vs. East Grand Forks.
Saint Paul Central v Cambridge-Isanti referring to scholarships and recruiting efforts, specifically at city schools in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
The coaches have said their players are often overlooked by colleges and universities in Minnesota.
Again, in hopes that a showcase event like this, as well as the George Floyd Memorial Tournament held over the holidays, could spotlight the quality of the student athletes they have here. A diverse group of student-athletes who wouldn’t normally meet in their own neighborhood, but learn some life lessons at the gym.
“We want to use today as a launch pad to build bridges,” said North High Coach Larry McKenzie. “We want to bring our kids together, have conversations and get to know each other. And like I said, hopefully they’ll realize that as they go out and become our decision makers, we as humans have more in common than our differences.”
The Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association was formed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder to amplify and elevate the voices of these frontline educators whose classroom is the basketball court. And whose mission it is to ensure that their so-called “urban kids” get the same opportunities as those who wear suburban and private school jerseys.
“We haven’t received the kind of recognition our players deserve,” said St. Paul Center coach Scott Howell. “It’s rare for the best DI programs to come into my building. And I know I’ve certainly had players like that in my 20s.”