Windy City-bred ballers — past and present — are doing what they can to help bring down Chicago’s violent crime rate, especially among young folks. From the AP: “Because those who grow up in rough Windy City neighborhoods face more than just the challenge of the city’s schoolyard competition. The real opponent is often the streets themselves. Perhaps no one is more familiar with that obstacle than former Illinois and Orlando Magic star Nick Anderson. Twenty-seven years ago, Anderson’s best friend, Ben Wilson, was widely considered the top high school prospect in the country. The day before their season opener, Anderson stopped into a local convenience store. Wilson accidentally bumped into a fellow teen just outside it. Seconds later, Wilson was shot. Just hours before what would have been his senior tip-off – Nov. 21, 1984 – he was pronounced dead at 17. … Basketball became Anderson’s way of distancing himself from that type of local trouble, and he often speaks to youths in the Orlando area encouraging them to find a means to do the same … Like Anderson, others are hoping to minimize the damage by using their big-name influence. [Derrick] Rose himself brought attention to the issue by donning jersey No. 25 – Wilson’s number, also worn by Anderson at Illinois and Orlando – while winning back-to-back city titles in 2006 and 2007 at Simeon Career Academy, the same school Anderson and Wilson attended. But for all the esteemed preps history Chicago has to offer – think names like Dwyane Wade, Tim Hardaway, Mark Aguirre and Candace Parker – perhaps no one ranks higher than Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, a product of the city’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Despite his professional rivalry with the Bulls honed by years of playoff battles as a member of the Detroit Pistons, Thomas makes regular trips back home to work with city officials on improving the area for children. ‘I give them real information,’ said Thomas, now the head coach at Florida International. ‘I let them know there are some unsafe places in your environment, but your environment isn’t a dangerous place all the time. If you seek the light, and stay away from the dark, you’re more apt to have a chance to make your mark on society.’”