Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
This is the second installment of our sixteen-part series, which is entitled, “This Is New York.” In Part 2, Shane “The Dribbling Machine” Woney talks about his Bronx-based tournament, Future Talent and his emphasis on basketball & an academic component.
In urban America, the game of basketball is seen by many youths as a way to get out of the rough circumstances of the ‘hood. Kids see the players they emulate on television and dream to be like them someday.
As good as that may be, an education is a great tool to fall back on for many reasons, one being a career-ending injury that an athlete may not be able to come back from. Whatever the case may be, there is always life after basketball.
Shane “The Dribbling Machine” Woney, a famous streetball legend known for his dribbling abilities shown on New York City playgrounds and via the AND 1 Mixtape tour years ago, is now giving back to the to the youths with his Future Talent Tournament in the Eastchester Gardens section of The Bronx.
Through basketball, he preaches to the kids that work, in the classroom, comes before play on the hardwood or asphalt. He does this to show the youths that they can be anything that they want to be if they work hard at it.
“We’re here at the Future Talent tournament, this is my ninth year,” said Woney. “Basically, it’s all about education, we stress more on the kids doing educational projects [like] writing essays. Most kids have to write 500 words, you reach topics like ‘Stop Bullying,’ so it’s more of a foundation where kids can come and teams can come and play basketball the right way.”
Here’s where Future Talent differs from other tournaments through Woney’s view. “It’s not an up & down, we try to get the high school kids on down to the younger kids. Most tournaments, you know, they press, they want it to be crazy, it’s no family yelling, no screaming, [the] only thing you really hear is the coaches and the fans.”
When asked about his intentions upon starting the tournament back in 2010, he replied, “The intention of starting the tournament, was to give the kids something to do, first of all, because Future Talent is on Boston Road, and I’m actually from Edenwald [Projects], and the crazy part is that my neighborhood got what you call, ‘street beef,’ where we’re at right now. I’ve been here nine years, so what I did was, actually, I bridged the gap between [the] neighborhoods uptown and [in] my community, and now I got all these supposedly can’t get along, we’re all in one park, so this tournament is really bridging the gap for Uptown and for the Northeast Bronx.”
As successful as he became due to the fame in the tournaments around the city and nationally through AND 1, Woney never forgot where he came from and vowed to give back to the youth the best way he knew how, through basketball.
When asked what advice he’d give the youth, he replied, “The most advice I’d give to the youth today is really, own your skills, right? And practice. When they hear that saying, ‘Trust the Process,’ a lot of people say it, but they don’t know what it means, so ‘Trust the Process’ means work on your game, I tell my kids, [ages] eight, nine, ten, for example, I had eight year old kids, they look at me crazy when I tell them, ‘Don’t shoot threes,’ but they don’t understand, I’m getting this information straight from the top of the echelon. I’m getting this from the NBA players, and they get it from the NBA scouts, so basically, it’s about teaching these kids, the basic part of the game, and the steps of the game, right? Teams come here and work on their stuff to take out of town and be successful.”
Some of the names that have come through the Future Talent tournament are McDonald’s All-American Scottie Lewis (Florida), Elijah Buchanan (Manhattan) and Jalen Nesmith (College of Eastern Florida) as some of the players that are now in college.
“I got seven girls that’s playing Division I college [basketball] that’s played in this league,” said Woney. “I don’t remember [their] names, but as we turn the TV, we’re going to get more and more [alumni] that the program is bringing in. The mom & pop teams are good, but Elijah Buchanan, he played on the neighborhood team [in this tournament] and still went Division I.”
In an era where many prominent tournaments in the city are sponsored by sneaker brands such as Nike, Puma and Puma, Woney funds his tournament with his own money and from donations and makes it a point to show that a tournament can make its way without a corporate sponsor backing them.
“It don’t feel good to have a non-sponsored tournament. It doesn’t feel great when you’re passionate [about what you’re doing], I want to thank Eastchester Heights for helping us do this. So, our sponsorship, you see we have summer-youth kids that we hire and that we pay, so it ain’t about the sponsorship all the time, right? It’s about the kids playing. Sponsorship dollars, it equals a good tournament, but to some tournaments, it’s money in their pocket. I’m doing good without this. I don’t make money off of this, I’m not looking to pay a bill, I just want the kids to have fun,” said Woney about the pros and cons of tournaments being sponsored.
Just the other day at Future Talent in 90-degree weather, teams in the 15U division and 18U division played on a humid asphalt for the love of the game. Woney was on the microphone in the shade, cracking jokes and calling the game as is his nature. At Future Talent, it’s all about books and ball, and nothing else.
In regards to future plans for the tournament, Woney plans to expand it to different sites in each of the five boroughs and also places in Westchester County like New Rochelle and Mount Vernon. But for now, the one on Seymour Avenue in the Eastchester Gardens housing complex will suffice, one game, one student-athlete at a time. It’s all about the books & ball, and nothing else.
Check out our third installment of “This Is New York,” on Monday, August 5th, as we chronicle an up & coming tournament in the Grenada BTW Classic.