RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – All this week, Good Morning Richmond is featuring people or groups that go above and beyond in the community.
Today, former Henrico County High School basketball star starts an after-school program geared to keeping kids off the streets and focused on playing for a brighter future.
Founder of BlackTop Kings & Queens Sports Academy (BTKQS) and coach Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Harris said it all started five years ago when he was passing on his basketball skills to his kids.
He then invited some of their friends to play at the basketball court at Pine Camp Park — the same park where he used to play ball growing up.
“I was already working being a QMHBA for a company and working for at risk behavioral kids,” Harris said. “I saw that I could use basketball as a tool to get through to kids once I was able to establish the atmosphere and once I saw what I .had the power to do and what I was capable of doing. I used it for my own good.”
Today, Harris said 25 kids are enrolled in the academy.
He picks them up after school, feeds them, let’s them finish their homework, and then it’s time to start their basketball drills.
“Education is a big thing here,” Harris said. “You can’t be on academic probation in this program.”
Including hosting spelling bees, future point guard, Timayahas Bracey, has been in the program for a year and won 2nd place in the latest spelling bee.
“The drills that Manny has gets us a lot better and you get good grades,” Bracey said, “Don’t get a bad report because he picks us up after school and our teachers let him know how we did that day.”
Adolphus Maples enrolled two of his sons in the program. He said in just three weeks, he saw improvement in his sons’ basketball skills and outlook on life.
“I think once we got there and met Manny, we realized his purpose was a little bit more than just teaching basketball,” Maples said. “I think Manny has really figured out what he’s here for. He loves basketball, he loves kids, and he found a way to put those two things together to really come together and make those things and support our community. Blacktop kings and queens.”
His teaching goes beyond basketball. Manny also opened up the roaster for soccer and football.
Willie Wright said his 8-year-old son enrolled in two programs because he’s an avid soccer and basketball player. He said it’s also affordable.
“Once we tried it, we fell in love with it instantly,” Wright said. “I would hope that this would be as much of a blessing for every other child that gets involved as it’s been for mine and my family.”
Harris said at the end of the day, it’s more than just teaching kids how to play ball.
It’s about teaching them the path to success in life.
“School comes first, your family, and then that sport,” Harris said. “The biggest thing is knowing the difference between playing basketball and being a basketball player. You know, being a basketball player comes with a different territory and so does the other.”
To learn more about the program and all that it offers, CLICK HERE.