By Victor Skinner
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – A new men’s basketball league in Muskegon is taking the love of basketball and turning it into something bigger.

The I Am Basketball league starts at 5:15 p.m. today at Three Oaks Academy (the old Western Michigan Christian High School)  in east Muskegon, where players generally between the ages of 18 and 30 will take to the court for officiated games, a vector organizers hope they can use to spread an important message.

“We’re a faith based organization, and we have a Christian theme,” the league’s director, Joe Kelm, said. “We’re not exactly preaching, we’re taking a more passive approach to it.”

Kelm said the intent is to use the strong interest in basketball among urban youth to help players connect with each other, their community and a higher power.

“There is a message behind it,” Kelm said.

The league costs $250 a team for an eight week season and charges $1 for admission and runs every Tuesday starting today.

Drew Naymick is playing in the league as well as Justin Jennings and Muskegon grad and seven-footer Callistus “Bean” Eziukwu.

Kelm said he hopes the league will prove popular enough to warrant another league this winter. Organizers modeled the program after the Rucker Park League in Brooklyn, New York, he said, and will host special events, such as an appearance by ESPN basketball commentator Chris Broussard scheduled for August 17.

“What motivated us is we saw basketball really brings the community together,” Kelm said. “There used to be a league like this in Muskegon Heights and it would draw a crowd of 500 to 1,000 spectators.

“We thought, why can’t we use that as a way to get these guys off the streets,” he said.

Look for LSJ video coverage late tonight from tonight’s games.

Check out the video below for some scenes from Rucker Park.