February 12, 2017 | 27 comments
BALL 4 LIFE. SAVE A LIFE.
Origins of a life saving youth basketball league made possible by ex-con and former high school superstar, Lonnie Plumlee
By Jose Quezada
Crystal Gardens has found their hero.
Until it came into an abrupt end, “The fame got into my head and it made me complacent. Eventually, I started missing practices and hung with the wrong crowd.” Crystal Gardens’ new found hero quickly fizzled out into a zero. Misdemeanors quickly turned to felonies, shooting basketballs quickly turned to shooting dice, and passing balls quickly turned to passing 8-balls. “I found myself on a whole other ball game where when you make a mistake there ain't no refs to save your ass.” He’s talking about the drug game and it doesn’t play fair. Soon enough, Lonnie caught a federal case and did a long stint in prison (He was charged with possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute and was sentenced for 5 years in state penitentiary.) Lonnie recollects how it felt when he heard his sentence, “My heart sunk, bro. The thought of me leaving the people I love and the game I love rode me into depression.”
During his stint in prison he thought of several ways to battle his depression, but once the idea of a youth league it seemed like his sickness faded away, “Once I had that eureka moment of giving back to my hood and just sharing knowledge and ultimately freeing them from future turmoil with just basketball, things started to get bright again.” His mission is to reach out to kids and teenagers because he believes that if you start early, you engrain the discipline and perseverance required to succeed in the harsh environments of Idlewood, “It ain’t easy in the streets, man. It don’t matter how young or how old you be. You can die at any moments notice and that’s why I had to make this happen.” He boasted of reading a lot of psychology and business books to help him gain knowledge on how to handle kids and teenagers and how to manage his own ventures. Time was spent most in the library for Lonnie and making connections with like-minded individuals in the penetentiary. “I just read and read and read non-stop. Talked to people that share the same mission as me and made promises to make it come true once we get back out in the world. Life ain’t until it’s over, I said to myself that it’s up to you to make positive decisions from here on out.”
As for regrets, Lonnie has none. "Dog, I did that my time but I learned from it and I'm moving the forward. This is for my man King, my main girl Tas and all of the countless others that rode for me. It's time to do you proud."
“Ball 4 Life is catered to kids ages 8-10 and soon-to-be-teenagers ages 11-12. We got them on two divisions the Midgets division for the kids and Aspirants division for soon-to-be-teens. We got 12 teams with 6-8 players for the two divisions.” Ball 4 Life Youth League’s slogan is “Save A Life”, Lonnie believes that basketball or any sport can save many lives. He aims at the youth because he also believes they are the future of our country. He also talked about how he was able to set up such an event, “Well, it wasn’t easy I had to convince the community that we need this for us to move forward as a society as well. I had to go door to door and advertise my league with the help of some of my friends from the hood and from the pen. Plus, it wasn’t just Crystal Gardens I went to, I went to other hoods to so I can promote peace and solidarity between the young ones. The big boys ain’t that easy to change, bro." The commitment it takes to successfully run a youth league in a troubled neighborhood is far from easy, but it is a challenge the ex-con slash former high school star is shying away from, "It took a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears but it was worth it. We’re still going strong for our upcoming second season.”
The talent pool in this youth basketball league is very promising, we see kids as young as 9 doing moves better than some college players. But, if you want to see real raw talent Lonnie says you should wait for the playoffs, "Man, playoffs is where its at! We got the top 8 teams where you see some dope kids slugging it out, then we get to the final four where it gets real competitive and where the parents can get really loud. As, for the finals — that's where future superstars are born. Best believe that!"
Lonnie and his band of brothers, before the start of the league share to them its purpose and give them life advice, “Me and my crew emphasize to the kids that playing this beautiful game of basketball is a privilege and it must not be taken lightly. I always give everyone pep talks before games and life wisdom. I don’t want them repeating what I’ve done wrong. History is the best teacher, if you will. For me, saving or just touching one life; making him reconsider his choices and making you think before you act is already a win for me.”
BALL 4 LIFE. SAVE A LIFE." posters around Crystal Gardens Housing Projects
www.wbrz.com/ls/local/jefferson/retrial ... 4-year-old
[AUG 27TH, 2012] INTENSE STANDOFF AT IDLEWOOD