The home of the Riverside Hawks AAU youth basketball program is on the grounds of the huge Riverside Church complex located adjacent to Columbia University in Harlem, New York City.
Its teams practice in two gymnasiums on the church grounds. One of those, the Stone Gym, on Claremont Avenue at West 120th St., was the site of a recent presentation about black basketball history, footwear design careers, and life lessons to a group of young ballers — ages 7 to 11 — participating in the Riverside Hawks Summer Camp.
The presentation, by Claude Johnson, founder and executive director of the Black Fives Foundation, shared the pre-1950 history of African-American basketball teams, particularly those from New York City. It included a slideshow as well as historical artifacts from that period, known as the Black Fives Era, which dates back to the early 1900s.
Johnson was joined by several special guests — a team of basketball footwear designers from sports industry leader Nike, Inc., as well as veteran NBA player Royal Ivey and Royal’s dad, Rod Ivey.
The Iveys, natives of Harlem, run a youth program of their own — the Royal Ivey “Royal Skills” Basketball Clinic — which serves the neighborhood of Hollis, Queens and surrounding communities.
Their comprehensive program includes workshops and activities that teach life skills in areas ranging from educational priorities to financial saving strategies to to gang awareness, and of course, basketball skills.
One of the key messages of the Iveys’ programs – which he emphasized in his remarks at Riverside last week – is for campers to keep their priorities straight. “I’ve had a ten year career in the NBA and I’m proof that hard work pays off,” he said. “But you need to have a backup plan.”
This message fit in well with the career insights given by several designers from the Nike Basketball division. Eric Goto, Ashley Low, and Kristen Keenan are responsible for the company’s basketball footwear. They discussed the careers available in such areas as colors, materials, and graphics, as well as the detailed stories they develop that are told through the products. A local Nike specialist, Tiffany Thompson, was also on hand to rally the kids with remarks about some of the brand’s ongoing grass roots activities in and around New York City.
The overall Riverside Hawks AAU program is headed by athletic director Mark Jerome, while the summer camp is run by coaches Steve Arzo, Mike Carothers, and Drew Mungin. Campers included boys and girls from from throughout the New York City area.
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