Hoops tournament spreads MLK's message

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory and message were alive and well at James Monroe Campus in the Bronx over the weekend.

The boys basketball team hosted a tournament Saturday to honor Dr. King in advance of Martin Luther King Day on Monday.

Throughout the day, excerpts of Dr. King's speeches were played in the gymnasium and coaches spoke to their teams about the significance of Dr. King's life and message.

James Monroe coach Nigel Thompson hopes the players absorbed the message.

"The whole idea is to connect the legacy and the message of Dr. King with basketball and sportsmanship," Thompson said. "We want to have the young men thinking about Dr. King a little bit more and about his message, certainly his message about uplifting and empowerment and non-violence. Hopefully, that message kind of touches one or two of the kids."

Thompson, a high school teacher, started the tournament five years ago. He worries that some adolescents don't fully comprehend the impact of Dr. King and the struggle for Civil Rights.

"Being able to go to whatever school they want to or whatever college they want to or whatever restaurant they want to ... some of the kids have no concept of that time in America (when African-Americans were denied such opportunities)," said Thompson, who spoke to all of the players about Dr. King's message after the tournament. "This is the way it was at one point, so don't take these things for granted. Appreciate it and work hard and understand that people sacrificed a lot, even their lives, for you to be able to have these things.

"If we can get one or two kids to sit back and ponder and think, then I think we've been successful, that we've done our job."