SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Beyond the hustle up and down the court, cheers from the crowd and shots from the three-point line, the Kings and Queens Rise Youth Basketball League is about much more than basketball.
“We are building bridges now, we are going to have less violence in the future,” said Kenneth Duncan, the coach and commissioner for the league.READ MORE: Wrong-Way Driver Suspected Of DUI In Crash That Killed Passenger On Hwy. 99
The co-ed summer basketball league is a partnership with youth organizations across the county collaborating to keep kids safe. The partnership includes The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, the Sacramento Kings, Build.Black., Black Child Legacy Campaign and My Brother’s Keeper Sacramento.
“If they are in the gym playing basketball, they are no longer outside really in harm’s way,” Duncan said. “They are with a mentor, they are getting fed, they are in a safe space.”
The goal is to prevent shootings like a recent one in Old Sacramento that left four people injured and two others dead, including a 16-year-old boy.
“It’s not just about shooting the ball and dribbling the basketball, they are learning life skills, learning how to deescalate situations, how to attend to their own mental health,” explained Chet P. Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center.
Hewitt is also the co-founder of the community organization Build.Black.
“We know that young people need help and support, and we as a city should be doing all we can to make sure young people are going to succeed,” he said.READ MORE: Cal Fire: Smoker Suspected Of Starting Wildfire Near Newcastle
Some Sacramento Kings players stopped by to make a surprise appearance as hundreds of players from Del Paso Heights to Meadowview showed their skills at the Golden 1 Center in the championship games.
“There are a lot of kids gangbanging, everybody claiming hoods, everybody can come here and be a whole community,” said McClatchy High School senior Matthew Wynn.
Parents like Rebecca Person were happy her kids have something safe to do on summer nights.
“They know they have something to look forward to, something positive in their life,” explained Person.
The league created a basketball barrier from violence, and organizers believe it reaches beyond.
“We have lost a lot of kids this summer, but we are saving more than we are losing,” Duncan said.MORE NEWS: Forest Service Reopens All National Forests In California
The program is in its fourth year. Last year, the group expanded to teaching kids gold as well.