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City officials called upon to help bring in youth program

By Tia Lyons
This article was published December 8, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

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.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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