City of­fi­cials called upon to help bring in youth pro­gram

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Tia Lyons Staff Writer Tia Lyons may be con­tacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@el­do­radonews.com.

City of­fi­cials were called to task Thurs­day to help bring a na­tional pro­gram to El Do­rado to serve youth in the com­mu­nity.

An­dre Rucks, a for­mer El Do­rado may­oral can­di­date who is ac­tive in the com­mu­nity, made an earnest plea be­fore the El Do­rado City Coun­cil and dis­cussed the Na­tional High School Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

The pro­gram was founded in 2006 to pro­vide youth with a safe haven to de­velop phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally.

The pro­gram uses bas­ket­ball to teach life skills and set youth on a path to­ward high school grad­u­a­tion and post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion to help them be­come suc­cess­ful, pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens.

Rucks said he has been asked to start a team in El Do­rado for the Na­tional High School Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion Jr. Mem­phis Griz­zlies Bas­ket­ball League, and he is re­cruit­ing chil­dren, ages 12 to 18.

The lo­cal team would be part of a statewide league that in­cludes Lit­tle Rock and Texarkana.

Rucks said he has run into some ob­sta­cles in set­ting up a team in El Do­rado.

A win­ner will have the op­por­tu­nity to play on the Mem­phis Griz­zlies’ court on March 23 when the Griz­zlies will face the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, Rucks said.

He also said NBA star Stephen Curry, of the Golden State War­riors, is also ex­pected to do­nate some his sig­na­ture bas­ket­ball shoes to mem­bers of the team.

Find­ing lo­cal fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing gyms, to host the pro­gram has proven dif­fi­cult, Rucks told al­der­men.

“I keep hear­ing things like the floors are in bad shape and there’s mois­ture … We’re sup­posed to start in two weeks, and Strong is the only place that has said that we can use their gym,” Rucks said.

He said the Boys and Girls Club of El Do­rado de­nied the use of its fa­cil­i­ties be­cause the NHBA is viewed as a com­peti­tor.

Rucks called on the city coun­cil to “ad­dress real con­cerns” in El Do­rado, par­tic­u­larly is­sues that ad­versely af­fect the “mi­nor­ity com­mu­nity.”

“I’ve told you, Mr. Mayor, that the num­ber one is­sue in this com­mu­nity is poverty,” Rucks said, ad­dress­ing Mayor Frank Hash.

“If we don’t ad­dress real con­cerns in the com­mu­nity, it’s go­ing to come back and bite us,” he con­tin­ued. “I re­spect those seats …, but those seats don’t rep­re­sent you. They rep­re­sent the peo­ple in the com­mu­nity, the con­stituents who put you there.”

Rucks said the NHBA pro­gram pro­vides struc­ture, guid­ance and di­rec­tion to way­ward youth.

“What we need from y’all is to un­der­stand the pain of this com­mu­nity. I grew up like many of these young men, and I con­nect to the pain they carry,” Rucks said.

He said the team would serve as an out­let for area youth who want to play bas­ket­ball but did not make their school teams.

Rucks im­plored al­der­men to throw their sup­port be­hind the ef­fort and to con­sider build­ing a recre­ational fa­cil­ity in the city.

“If you know some­body with a gym, call them. If you know a kid who needs an out­let, please send them my way,” he said.

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