Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
This is part three of a sixteen-part series involving basketball in New York City called, “This Is New York.” The third installment is about the Grenada BTW Classic, a summer tournament that takes place in the Edenwald Houses in the North Bronx.
When one thinks of the Edenwald projects, they see an urban environment that has been plagued by crime and violence. Opened in 1953, it is the largest housing complex under NYCHA in the borough of the Bronx, which also has over 2,000 apartments which house over 5,000 tenants.
However, there has been plenty of good that has come out of those projects. People that came out of that neighborhood were athletes such as former NBA player Eric Mobley, AND 1 streetballer and playground legend Shane “The Dribbling Machine” Woney, former Clemson University guard Marion Cash, former Manhattan College forward Emmanuel Andujar and fomer University of Dayton point guard Dayshon “Scoochie” Smith. Also, rapper and Love & Hip Hop: New York star DreamDoll is also from the neighborhood.
Although plenty outside the community see the area as just another urban environment, Edenwald is also a haven where the youth make their talents come true. One haven where they can enjoy themselves is the Grenada BTW (Built To Win) Classic tournament, which is located on Grenada Place in between several of the buildings.
Now in its seventh year of existence, the tournament has been a haven for the community and people from other areas of the Bronx to come see some good games and have a good time.
“Over here in Grenada blacktop, it’s been a success in 2019,” said Rasheem Jenkins, who is a co-founder of the tournament along with Vance Callahan, both of whom were raised in the neighborhood. “When we first started, it was like a weekend thing for the last five years and we’ve been going in the summer for eight weeks strong, geared towards kids from ages eight to 18. We just want to keep the kids safe, have a safe place to play. At about 6:00-7:00 [PM], we have a college/pro division, [which are] guys coming out achieving better competition.”
During the summer time, the tournament also provides clinics for the younger youth. “In the mornings, clinics start at 10:30 AM and goes to like, 12:30 PM, teaching the fundamentals of the game, conditioning, triple threat, pivoting, this program is really geared toward like, I wouldn’t call it an underrated tour, but [for] kids who don’t get the opportunity to travel during AAU or play [Nike] EYBL or the parents don’t have the money, so they can come here. This is one of the ways they can get seen and have some teams come here, maybe a coach can see them, and hopefully, come pick them up.”
Also, what’s intriguing about the tournament is its focus on academics and other things that are needed in the urban community. “The Grenada Built to Win [is] also geared towards academics, we push nutrition, we also offer services in the community, we also do the community clean-up drive to keep the development clean. We want to send every kid to college, you know give them opportunities, so I just want to use my resource as an outlet to put them in the best position possible,” said Jenkins.
On the intent of the tournament when it first started, he replied, “The intent behind is to keep a safe haven for all [of] the kids in the area, and hopefully blow this up to one day to maybe get like Dyckman, maybe get like Hoops in the Sun, maybe Gersh Park. If you talk about Edenwald Projects, they think, ‘Uhh, I don’t want to come in Edenwald development,’ knowing all the violence that’s going on, from previous years, so this is one of the ways to deter crime and keep everybody together.”
When asked about what advice he would give the youth, Jenkins, a graduate of Florida A&M University, replied, “Take all the opportunities you can, try to stay off the streets, listen to all your teachers, listen to all the mentors out here that did it, try to go to bed early, eat the right foods. If you don’t have a dad in your life, there’s a lot of mentors [out here]. I want to give them that inspiration that I had. I didn’t have a dad growing up, so I want to push them to be the best they can be. I don’t really want to make excuses, if we can do the impossible, they can do it. We don’t want to make excuses, because nobody’s really going to care about you. So, if you go on a job interview, and you say, ‘My father died,’ They don’t really care about that, so I want to build no excuses, so be persistent at all times.”
Aside from the life lessons comes the action on the asphalt. The court has no bleachers so people crowd around the baseline and watch, cheer and/or heckle like at any other event. But it’s all in fun and for good entertainment. The players also come to play just like at any other event. Competition is a must in those gates.
As they continue to go on, the Grenada Built to Win plans to build their resume, not only as a staple in the community, but also as an event to be reckoned with.
“In the fall, we’ll be gearing towards after school programs because we’re also a non-profit, 501-c-3 [program], focusing on like I said, nutrition, academics and in the summer, we want to make it like a summer camp, during the day and like Monday through Friday and also the weekends, we want to do the tournament, so that’s the future of what we want to do with the Grenada Built To Win Classic,” said Jenkins.
If you’re ever in the North Bronx, stop by the hallowed grounds of the Edenwald projects and check out some good action on Grenada Place. Don’t be afraid of anything, you’ll be safe. In those gates, there are good vibes and good basketball.
Check out Part 4 on Thursday, August 8th, as we will be chronicling Jarrett Lockhart, a graduate of The Bronx’s Mount St. Michael Academy, who also played collegiate basketball at the University of Pittsburgh on the Division I level, played professional and coached on the collegiate basketball level at Lincoln College of New England and Florida International University. He is also the co-author of the newly-released book, “Cheers to Fears,” which is in stores now.