18Night basketball posterThe Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department is launching a new initiative aimed at keeping young people off the streets on summer nights by engaging them in wholesome activities. Beginning June 7 and continuing until July 12, the department will offer coed 3-on-3 basketball at the recreation center gymnasium, every Friday night from 9 p.m. until midnight. The doors will open at 8:30 p.m. each Friday.

There is no charge to play — participants simply have to sign up at the recreation offices at 5766 Rockfish Rd. 

Lamarco Morrison, new head of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department, said he got the idea after a recent meeting of the town’s Citizen Academy and the result of a conversation with recreation department staff member Stephen Kessenger.

Morrison said the question was raised as to what the town was doing to attract youth in hard-to-reach areas of the community.

The idea of night basketball was suggested. “It was a way to get the youth off the street in the summer, plus involve the police department,’’ Morrison said.

Morrison later learned that Kessenger had done something similar when he was working in Hoke County. Morrison then ran the idea by other people in Hope Mills, including the town manager and people associated with the parks department.

The plan every Friday is to hold play from 9 p.m. until midnight in the recreation department gym. There will be two half-court games going on at once, each team composed of three players. Each game will last 12 minutes.

“If you win, you stay on the court,’’ Morrison said. “If you lose, you’re off the court. We’ll go that way until 12 (a.m.’)”

The league is open to both male and female players. Although there is no age limit for the games, Morrison said the targeted age group is from 15 to 20 years old.

Morrison is working to get members of the Hope Mills Police Department to play in the games, along with staff from the recreation department. They will be there both to participate but also to supervise the activity.

“The police have two roles,’’ Morrison said, “to make sure everybody behaves, but they also will be involved with playing the game.’’

Morrison said he is still working out some details of that arrangement with Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo.

Concession stands won’t be open inside the gym during the games, but Morrison said food trucks would be outside for those who might want to get something to eat.

“We’ll do it for six weeks,’’ Morrison said. “If people say they want more, we’ll look at doing it longer.’’

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