Uptown Basketball Alliance Bringing Attention to Washington Heights through Hoops

By David Cordova

In the area of the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, you see plenty of things that reflect the Dominican culture, the food, the music and most importantly, the people. But sports is also something that brings visibility to the area.

There is George Washington High School, the school known for its perennial powerhouse baseball program, which includes former slugger Manny Ramirez. But just across from the school is an emerging event that is growing in popularity, which takes place at the Raoul Wellenberg Playground on 189th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

Large crowds are always present for a UBA game. (Photo courtesy of Uptown Basketball Alliance)

The name of the tournament in question is the Uptown Basketball Alliance. Since 2014, the tournament has been an outlet for the community. It provides not only basketball, but also something for the youth to enjoy, something to keep away from trouble.

“Our mission is simple, at first we saw that Washington Heights, when we talk about basketball and understanding the history, the basketball presence wasn’t felt,” says Domingo Estevez, the founder of the UBA, as the tournament is commonly known. “We were just trying to create a platform for the community where the youth and athletes could reach the masses, so we understood that it was important to revamp basketball programming and revitalize basketball in Washington Heights.”

On the court on 189th & Amsterdam, competition is fierce, so playing hard is a must. (Photo courtesy of Uptown Basketball Alliance)

Within that mile radius in Washington Heights are two other tournaments, the Washington Heights Invitational on 175th Street & Amsterdam and the Dyckman Tournament on 204th Street & Nagle Avenue, which have corporate sponsors such as Under Armour and Nike. UBA doesn’t have that just yet, but they still command plenty of attention and have a large crowd presence, which shows that tournaments like theirs can do a lot more with less resources.

“As you can see, and you’ll get a taste of it, a lot of it is Washington Heights, the community, that intensity comes to life during the games,” says Estevez. “The amount of people that come to the games challenges us to do more every year, so our community enjoys the UBA experience.”

The notable names that have played at the UBA are players such as Luis Montero, the former Westchester Community College star, who is playing in the NBA Summer League for the Dallas Mavericks, streetball legend Adris “2 Hard 2 Guard” De Leon, Kavon “Happy Feet” Lytch and “Super” Dave Seagars, the former Dowling College standout.

Tyrie Orosco skies to the basket for two. (Photo courtesy of Uptown Basketball Alliance)

In the high school division, you can see players from schools such as Brandeis High School, Gregorio Luperon High School and Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School,which is also known as WHEELS. In the pro-am division, there is perennial powerhouse Rodney Park, Highbridge, Heights Finest and Da Young Onez.

As the tournament goes forward, it will definitely grow in visibility, but for now, it’s all about building programs that will help serve the community and its youth. “We look to expand the youth component, so there’s going to be a lot more youth programming involved,” says Estevez, “We started the Washington Heights Renegades basketball club, which is meant to provide skill development, mentorship, tutoring, participate in various tournaments and teach that up & coming generation that it goes beyond street basketball. We want to make sure that they are in the path to get those D-I, top D-II scholarships straight out of high school.”

The UBA is also a beacon of hope for a lot of the youth, who can be led astray by the pitfalls of the streets. “A lot of it is also filling the voids that we have in the community as well, we have a lot of talented athletes, but because of the lack of mentorship and understanding of the politics that go on behind the scenes, are taking paths that don’t take them the route that of being able to put their collegiate & professional careers into fruition. We are always adding new components every year, to make sure we bridge any gaps,” says Estevez.

As you can see, the UBA is not just a tournament, but it’s also a brand that strives to make things better for the people of Washington Heights. Basketball is only a tool, but its one that makes things better for a few hours a day.

Highlights of Uptown Basketball Alliance (UBA):

Courtesy of Uptown Basketball Alliance.

Courtesy of Uptown Basketball Alliance.

Courtesy of Uptown Basketball Alliance.

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