Gaters' hoops tourney celebrates MLK

Dorothy Gaters has two loves -- basketball and teaching.

Gaters combines those two passions almost on a daily basis while coaching Marshall’s girls basketball team. But this upcoming weekend, she looks to not only teach her own players a few lessons, but she hopes to pass on some knowledge to 60-plus other boys and girls teams from nine different states.

Gaters will host her 11th annual MLK Dream Classic at Whitney Young from Saturday to Monday. Sixty-six teams will play in 35 games over the three days.

Gaters’ vision for the event was initially small and simple. She had 10 local girls basketball teams play each other in the first year. The classic has grown in time. Despite it now being a national event, her goal has remained the same – to honor Martin Luther King and showcase competitive basketball.

“I wanted to make a contribution even if it’s in a small way,” Gaters said. “I didn’t participate in the Civil Rights movement, though I lived through it as a young girl. I was very much saddened by the events I saw.

“As an adult and coach, I have the opportunity to remind our student-athletes of the atrocities others suffered to give them the opportunities they have now. I think teenagers, especially today’s teenagers, take it for granted the liberties we have.”

Gaters grew up in Mississippi and moved to Chicago when she was seven years old. She doesn’t remember much about what life was like in Mississippi for herself, but she knows her family was affected by segregation.

“My oldest brother had to sit on a wooden box on the bus as he rode to school because he couldn’t sit in a seat that was just for white kids,” Gaters said. “What type of impact would that have on a kid’s life? Very, very profound.”

Throughout the weekend, music from the Civil Right era and King’s “I have a dream” speech will played over the speakers at the classic. The program also includes information about King.

“Dr. Martin Luther King just meant everything to me,” said Gaters, who is also Marshall’s athletic director. “People made great sacrifices for me to be able to go to college and be where I am now.”

Some of the featured boys games in the classic include Orr vs. Seton, Marshall vs. St. Joseph, Farragut vs. St. Ignatius and North Chicago vs. Curie. A full schedule can be found at mlkdreamclassic.org.