This is an updated article from August 30th, 2017
Rasheem Jenkins was one of NYC’s top guards during his four years at Wings Academy in The Bronx. The All-city guard then was able to play division 1 basketball at Florida A&M and play professionally in Germany and Poland, but since he stopped playing basketball a few years ago he has used the sport he loves to help the youth in his old neighborhood of the Edenwald section of the Bronx.
“If you get mad and take off your shirt you won’t be allowed to play anymore, we are trying to teach good sportsmanship here” Jenkins says on the microphone as he commentates one of the games at his fifth annual Grenada Blacktop Classic. It’s an event that he started a few years ago after witnessing a lack of activities for the kids in his neighborhood.
“The Idea came about when I see kids doing nothing in the park, there was no morale and the kids had no smiles on their faces so I said I’m gonna start my own tournament and that’s when I started the Blacktop classic. I wanted to give kids a tournament they can play in every weekend as long as they can get along with each other” Jenkins adds. This year’s event included a Basketball clinic in which players are taught new skills from current professional and college players who are from the area. Following the clinic, the kids participated in basketball tournaments that lasted throughout the day.
Having an event like the Blacktop Classic in Edenwald is essential because it’s an area notoriously known for violence but at the same time basketball events such as his contribute to the crime rate going down.
The Edenwald and Baychester areas have produced tons of players who have played division one basketball as well as played professionally. Two notable players from the area have made lots of noise on the college and local high school scene. Dayshon “Scoochie” Smith just came off a successful 4 year run at the University of Dayton where he led Dayton to multiple NCAA tournament appearances including a run to the elite eight in his freshman year. Smith has played professionally overseas in Australia and now currently plays with the Canton Charge an NBA G-league affiliate of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then there is Dashawn “Rams” Davis, a 6-2 guard from Our Savior Lutheran, a Mr. Basketball and McDonald’s All-American nominee who recently committed to Seton Hall. These two players along with many others have benefited from the help of people in their own community who have kept them on the right path.
Robert “Rock” Jones a coach with the Wiz Kids and Elliot Rosado founder and CEO of Books and Ball along with many others in the Edenwald area have helped kids stay on track with the sport of Basketball. Jenkins along with his childhood friend Vance Callahan are two men who are willing to do the same. Who knows, there could be some future stars in NYC basketball who could come out of the Edenwald area thanks to the Grenada Blacktop Classic.
On that Sunday evening, the event left a lasting effect on the kids who were there. “When the event was over, one of the kids asked me if we were coming back tomorrow or next week. They wanted to do something like this everyday that’s when I know I made an impact”. It was great to see that a lot of the kids enjoyed themselves. There were kids who don’t even play basketball who enjoyed it”. With the success that his event his had this year Jenkins along with his partner Vance Callahan and others hope to expand the event by making it a few weeks during the summer. It’s a challenge that they are willing to overcome but they need help from the community. “We need more help from the parents, we would like to get them involved so we can help these kids.” Jenkins is also looking for future sponsors for his event.When the event was over , the kids asked me if we were coming back tomorrow or next week. They wanted to do this everyday It was phenomenal, that’s when I know It made an Impact.
When the event was over , the kids asked me if we were coming back tomorrow or next week. They wanted to do this everyday It was phenomenal, that’s when I know It made an Impact.Rasheem Jenkins on the Impact of the Grenada Blacktop Classic
Jenkins has a big vision for his event as well as other things he wants to do for the youth in the future. “I’m looking to start my own enrichment program soon, not just for the kids who play basketball, also for the kids who don’t play basketball as well Some of these kids want to go D1, but they don’t realize that they need to do well in school too. These kids also need to learn how to use basketball to get a free education as well as find other career paths” Jenkins added. The fifth annual Grenada Blacktop classic is over but Jenkins is not done. Later on this fall, he will be hosting a shooting stars camp and he will also continue to work with the youth in sports programs.
As for other people in communities who are looking to do the same Jenkins has some advice “just come out and show your face, also let your voice be heard. Use your strengths to help the youth.
UPDATE: In the summer of 2018, the Grenada Blacktop Classic evolved from a weekend event to a full summer tournament which Included several divisions from Middle School Boys and Girls divisions to Mens unlimited division. When it comes to providing for his community the tournament is just one way replans to give back. Jenkins has future plans to start his own Community Based Organization organization which revolves around on education and athletics.