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Harper Woods dedicates new basketball hoops at Johnston Park

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 20, 2019

 Players in the NUMEN basketball league were on hand to dedicate the new basketball hoops at  Johnston Park with a quick pickup game July 19.

Players in the NUMEN basketball league were on hand to dedicate the new basketball hoops at Johnston Park with a quick pickup game July 19.

Photo byPatricia O’Blenes

HARPER WOODS — Johnston Park in Harper Woods got some new additions thanks to city leaders and the volunteers at the Neighborhood United Maximum Effort Now youth group: a pair of new basketball hoops.

The hoops were dedicated at a ceremony July 19 attended by city officials and the more than 250 youths taking part in the NUMEN summer basketball program. The goal of the project was to give young people a healthy, positive outlet.

“It’s a place you can play basketball that gives kids a place to get off the street,” said NUMEN member Lebron Bates. “I really like being part of NUMEN. It gives others help and lets them have a place to learn and have fun.”

The hoops are set up at Johnston Park, located on Beaconsfield Street next to Harper Woods High School, which is open until dark.

NUMEN was founded in 2018 by William Smith, who has since been appointed to the Harper Woods City Council. The six-week summer basketball program focuses on the sport and teaches kids about taking responsibility for their actions and smart decision-making both on and off the court.

Smith began the push for the new hoops prior to joining City Council and was pleased to see his idea gain traction among other stewards of the community.

“In October (of 2018), I went to a City Council meeting as a citizen, and I was concerned there weren’t any basketball hoops in our city that was approximately 50% African American,” Smith explained. “Children should have recreation options in walking distance or at places they can ride their bikes. Some kids end up playing basketball in the streets. We worked with the City Council and City Manager Joe Rheker, and we managed to put something together.”

The addition of the hoops was funded by the city in what officials said is hopefully the beginning of a fruitful partnership with NUMEN.

“We want to be active with youth, provide activities for youth and work with council members on programs for youth,” said John Szymanski, the treasurer and fInance director of Harper Woods. “Our council member, Will Smith, founded (NUMEN) and introduced the city to this group, and it’s been a very positive experience.”

They hope they will be able to partner with them on similar additions to the city as time goes on.

“This is the start of this relationship,” Szymanski added. “We hope to grow that relationship and include more basketball courts and recreational facilities added to our other parks. Projects like this build a sense of community with our youth, and that’s where it all starts. We’re encouraging home ownership and encouraging family values.”

Smith agreed that a working relationship between NUMEN and Harper Woods could produce some great results for young people in the community.

“I would love to see more partnership with the city and NUMEN,” he said. “We have 250 kids involved from this area, so we would like to see additional projects that aren’t just sports related, but also student and community programs. We are teaching young people to be better leaders. They make their uniforms, they clean the gym, they handle registration, they promote the program, they coach and referee games, so they are learning to be community leaders.”

He also said that the installation of the hoops was an immediate success.

“Within minutes of the hoops getting attached, you had kids using them, and we’ve had kids using them all day,” Smith said.

Smith thinks the hoops will prove to be a great addition to the city and hopes to revitalize a baseball program to accompany the basketball program in the next year.

“I’m excited this is happening,” he remarked. “I’m excited for the community. I received a call from a resident the first day saying she brought her children out to play on the courts. I think bigger and better things are yet to come.”