(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
Kids from Boston and surrounding communities dribbled and dished Thursday at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Basketball for Peace Tournament, held at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Uphams Corner.
“This is great,” said Ghiho Ghim, a 14-year-old player with the Dorchester Youth Collaborative team. “Especially since a lot of us are on school break, it’s a lot better than being at home playing Xbox.”
The tournament, now in its fourth year, works to connect youth from all over the county with the men and the women who work in their neighborhoods.
“Our goal is to keep the kids away from violence and the criminal element,” said Daniel Conley, District Attorney for Suffolk County. “We are really working hard to divert kids away from drugs and violence and give them an opportunity to interact with those working within the community.”
The event also featured six honorary coaches, who have excelled in their own fields and work to inspire the kids.
“This is definitely the right way to address these young kids,” said William Gross, deputy superintendent for the Boston Police Department and one of the honorary coaches. “In the mid-90s people realized you couldn’t arrest problems away. We really want the kids to understand that no matter what background you come from, you really and truly have support out there and you should seek out that help.”
To further instill the message of community and a positive lifestyle Chris Herren, a former Celtics and Denver Nuggets player, spoke with the kids about his own battles with drug addiction and past mistakes.
“I said this will be the only time,” said Herren, as he described his first experience with cocaine. “But it took 14 years for me to put down the dollar bill.”
Herren, a Fall River native, highlighted the importance of choices and how they can stick with you the rest of your life. Herren is now clean a sober but he struggled with addictions to cocaine, heroin and prescription pills.
Describing how the drugs changed him, Herren said he made poor choices in life, losing his lucrative professional basketball contracts, falling in with the wrong crowd and at one low point pawning his kid’s Xbox for drugs.
“The choices you make today will stay with you tomorrow,” said Herren. “Nothing you put in your body will fix who you are; you are perfect the way you are.”
Thursday's tournament was a spin off of the DA's annual summer Soccer for Peace Tournament, which is now in its ninth year.