Basketball academy's net gain is learning Games only a sideline for high school students

January 05, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

Twenty high school basketball teams from the mid-Atlantic region are coming to Baltimore for a three-day event this week, but the games will be few and far between.

Instead, boys and girls from Baltimore, Washington, New York and Pennsylvania will spend most of their time getting tips about taking the SAT, volunteering in the city and visiting area museums.

It's part of the second annual Mayor's Basketball Academy, which organizers believe is the only event of its kind: a combination of athletics, academics, culture and community service -- with an emphasis on the nonsports components.

"Basketball is the catch-all, but basketball is not the major focus of the academy," said Bob Wade, Baltimore coordinator of athleticsand co-chairman of the event. " A lot of the kids have ambitions of going to college, and we're trying to assist them."

Speeches from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and participating athletes will kick off the academy today. The event runs from Thursday through Saturday at Coppin State College and is sponsored by the city school system, the city Department of Recreation and Parks and 100 Black Men of Maryland, an affiliate of a national group that mentors youths.

Students will participate in workshops on such topics as college preparation and peer pressure, visit places such as the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and volunteer at Head Start centers, nursing homes and a hospital.

The program is similar to last year's academy. That's fine with the participating teams, many of which are attending for the second time.

"I think they covered everything" last year, said Ruth Travis, athletic director for Lake Clifton-Eastern Senior High, which sent its boys' and girls' teams last year and will be represented by its male players this time.

"I attended many of the workshops, and I found them quite informative," she said. "The athletes seemed to really enjoy them. I was more impressed by the workshops than the games."

One goal of the organizers is to prepare students for college basketball -- academically, not athletically. To be eligible for NCAA Division I sports, high school players must maintain a grade point average of 2.5 and score at least an 820 on the 1600-point SAT. More than 60 percent of African-American students who take the test don't meet those standards, said academy organizers.

During the event, academy participants will get a healthy dose of SAT pointers and reminders about the importance of grades.

But of course, part of the basketball academy is basketball: the 14 boys' and six girls' teams will each play two games, spread out over the three days. Tickets are $8 per dayand the proceeds will be used to cover academy costs and to purchase computers and equipment for participating schools.

The academy will cost an estimated $142,000, which is also being defrayed by corporate sponsors. Teams attend at no charge.

Last year, the games drew large crowds. "The place was so packed, we couldn't let any more people in," said Annette Stenhouse, a spokeswoman for the Recreation and Parks Department.

Ticket information: 410-685- 6630.

Pub Date: 1/05/98

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