by Aaron Maisel / @Hoo_Mais
It’s not the type of 3×3 tournament where Miami’s Big Three will go head-to-head with Brooklyn’s Big Three, but it is the type of tournament where a random player from a random city can get their one shining moment on the court. On Labor Day weekend, on a blacktop located outside of Washington, DC, Hoop It Up will host the Nationals & 3×3 Festival.
Hoop It Up was established in 1989 and is the original 3×3 national grassroots street ball tour. In the last two decades, over 500,000 athletes have participated in the numerous tournaments all over the country. Although there is an array of tournaments that Hoop It Up sponsors throughout the year, this is the one that creates the national buzz because of its compelling headliners.
Headlining the tournament this year are the Lord Gym Saints out of Cincinnati. They have been the perennial winners of world championships in the College division, but due to their success, they will be participating in the Top Gun division for the first time. They are led by point guard Antonio Price, whose toughest challenges have been far from going up against bigger opponents in the paint. Coming from a rough childhood, Price could’ve taken the wrong path and continued in the shadows of his peers in his younger years. But basketball saved him. The love that he has for the game is unmatchable, and it shows when he is on the court.
Price leads a program that has won 16 world championships since 2005. Lord’s Gym has been with Hoop It Up since 1995 thanks to the continuous efforts from Reverend Al Mosley. Due to his constant assistance with Over-the-Rhine, he has helped at-risk youths stay off the streets and stay on the basketball court. But unlike the other programs that attempt to keep their youth from living behind bars or six feet under, Mosley has a system—one that mirrors a university.
In order to get a jersey for Lord’s Gym, Mosley makes sure the kids practice three times a week, get good grades and enrich their minds with bible study. “Our affiliation with Hoop It Up has been life changing,” says Mosley. “Through these tournaments, these kids get to see that there is more to life other than guns, violence and crime.”
Mosley’s contributions go beyond what he gives his athletes. When they are grown up and in the real world, Mosley gives to his players something that some college graduates can’t even find—a job. He makes sure that when basketball can no longer be an escape for these men, they are occupied with a job that will continue to keep them away from the troubled neighborhoods that he helped them get off of when they were younger.
This 3×3 tournament may not be headlined by future NBA stars or have McDonald’s All-American’s putting on a highlight reel, but it doesn’t have to. This tournament will showcase athletes that truly have a passion and love for basketball. But they’re not playing for a contract or a scholarship—they’re playing for pride and for the love of the game.