Going on the premise that basketball prowess can translate into success off the court, a group of NAACP leaders in Orange County is inviting troubled youths and young adults off the streets and into the game.
"You can use the same strategies of basketball to achieve success in life," said Curtis Gamble, chairman of the newly created sports committee of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
"We're not just telling kids not to steal or sell drugs," Gamble said. "We're giving them an alternative and showing them that they can reach their goals."
Gamble, a bus driver who also runs a motivational speaking business from his home in Anaheim, has put together a team of men and women who recruit people to play against them or just drop by to shoot hoops. Games are informal and draw varying numbers of players.
Team members seek their recruits on the streets, in parks, at sporting events and community gatherings. Between jump shots and layups, they make a subtle pitch for setting goals for success and following a dream.
The technique is showing promise.
"I wasn't a good kid," said Tim Tempas, a 21-year-old recruit who now spends his evenings playing basketball with the NAACP team in Placentia.
"I was a punk, and these guys have been positive role models to me. I don't know what I'd be doing right now if it weren't for them."
Said Art Gowens, another 21-year-old recruit: "They just picked me up and gave me a chance to play basketball and motivated me to want to do something positive with my life."
James H. Tippons, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said the informal program "uses basketball as a vehicle to reach young people and show them that there are positive things in life, not just gangs, drugs and violence."
Besides playing in league games each week, team members organize three-on-three tournaments for their recruits.
"It's teamwork, it's goal-setting--it's just like life," said Gamble, 36.
"It motivates you to be persistent and believe in yourself."
Information: (714) 238-9121.