Basketball program aims to uplift inner cities plagued by an uptick in violence this summer

Young3 is a community outreach offering training in basketball and life skills.

July 10, 2024, 4:04 AM

Dribbling a basketball from one hand to another, DaJuan Summers shows a packed gym of young aspiring basketball players, including his son, how to make a perfect layup.

Sporting blue and white "Young3" jerseys, they each watch and mimic the pivots and movements of a professional basketball player while attempting to shoot the ball.

The Young3 is the community outreach division of the BIG3, the premier professional 3-on-3 basketball league founded by Ice Cube, and works to uplift the communities of inner cities the league visits, which are often faced with an uptick of violence in the summer.

DaJuan Summers and Garlon Green serve as coaches for the Young3 basketball program.
Jacob Oderberg

"I know for me, growing up here in Baltimore, we didn't have all the resources that we would have liked to have. As I started getting better at basketball, it started opening up better opportunities for myself," Summers, who plays for the BIG3 Ball Hogs, told ABC News at a recent YOUNG3 event.

Each Young3 event provides an afternoon of BIG3 basketball skill development, motivational speaking, and meet-and-greets with BIG3 players and coaches.

"Getting to the kids at this level, at the grassroots level, is so important for their memories so they believe in themselves, and they can always know that their dreams are possible," said Summers.

"Watching us and seeing us doing this, especially guys like myself from here, makes it even more believable and that they can achieve their dreams," he added.

DaJuan Summers and his son
Jacob Oderberg

The Young3 says the goal of this initiative is to provide a safe space for young people to develop confidence, teamwork, and self-belief while promoting conversations about mental health and inner-city adversity affecting children.

"Young3 is an integral part of the fabric of the league," a BIG3 spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.

"Everyone involved with the BIG3 has experienced the transformative power of basketball and wants to share that with the next generation. In the cities we are visiting this year like Oakland, Baltimore, Newark, this is more important than ever. We are honored to provide a safe space for these kids to develop their basketball skills, learn from our players, and facilitate conversations around mental and physical health," the statement continued.

According to data from The Gun Violence Archive, an independent organization that gathers information about gun violence and tracks mass shootings in the United States, gun violence incidents involving children and teens saw an uptick during the summer months last year.

In January of 2023, 72 children ages 0-11 were injured by gunfire nationally compared to 94 in June 2023, the data showed. Among teens 12-17 years old, the numbers rose from 396 nationally in January 2023 to 516 in June 2023.

This year, 67 children ages 0-11 were injured by gunfire nationally in January. That number rose to 89 in June. Among teens ages 12-17, 341 were injured by gunfire in January this year, compared to 406 in June.

Young3 Players and Coaches (Garlon Green, Jaylen Johnson, and Mike Taylor)
Jacob Oderberg

"The research lens supports that when we see higher temperatures, we tend to see more aggressive behavior, a correlation between things like feelings of irritability, frustration, that can lead to violent behavior," Thaddeus Johnson, a senior fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice, told ABC News.

Johnson, a former high school basketball player himself, said basketball programs like the Young3 serve not only as a positive reference for vulnerable juveniles dealing with gun violence but for citizens in general.

"Basketball is always a reference no matter what's going on around you in these areas," said Johnson.

"You need to have programs like these basketball type programs embedded, [as well as] other broader comprehensive programs that can really take advantage and serve our most vulnerable juveniles and vulnerable citizens in general," he added.

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