Rucker Park Basketball Tournament Shut Down by Cops
HARLEM — Police prevented a Rucker Park basketball tournament from restarting Monday, after last week's wild shooting left five people, including a teenager, wounded, the tournament's organizer said.
Greg Marius, founder and CEO of the famed Entertainers Basketball Classic, hired additional security and planned to resume the popular tournament Monday night, but police shut the event down, Marius said.
"They came in here and said you have to get out," Marius said. "It's unfair. We are an international tournament."
Ricardo Laing, of White Plains, was arrested in connection with the July 26 shooting, which may have erupted after an argument or heckling over a call, according to police.
The five victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Marius said he felt police were trying to force him to get people to cooperate with the investigation, a power he feels he doesn't have.
Police did not immediately comment Monday evening.
Hundreds of people could be seen running during a video of the shooting posted on WorldStarHipHop.com. NBA free agent and former New York Knick Nate Robinson was at the event but was not injured.
Marius said that on the day of the shooting there were fewer police officers and fewer metal barricades than in years past.
On Monday, two police officers stood near the entrance to the court, and a mobile command center and police van and car also sat outside the park.
Marius said the NYPD's refusal to let the tournament continue was confusing because the alleged shooter is in custody and the gathering is normally free from violence.
"The last fist fight was in 1995 and we've never had a shooting," Marius said. "The movie theater is still open," he added, referring to the Aurora, Colo. shooting at a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Marius said three NBA players were interested in stopping by the tournament this week.
"They are not afraid because they know we are a safe tournament," Marius said.
Visitors who showed up to the park at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 155th Street said they were disappointed.
"The kids feel safer in here than in the projects across the street," said Sharawn Vinson, referring to the Polo Grounds Houses, a public housing complex across the street from Rucker Park.
She said the park provided free entertainment, jobs and giveaways to kids in the area.
"It's 1,000 shootings across the street and they are not shutting the projects down," she added.
Xavier Scott, 23, said the shutdown is costing him money. He has worked for the past three years to prepare the court for games.
"It's not going to accomplish anything," he said of shutting down the tournament. "We didn't know a shooting was going to occur."
A group of players from a basketball camp near Torino, Italy came out to see the tournament Monday. They visit basketball camps run by Syracuse University and the Boston Celtics, and all the kids were excited about coming to Rucker Park, said Victor Imbuzeiro who was serving as translator.
"They find streetball and all the great names fascinating," Imbuzeiro said.
"We always see it on YouTube," added Marco Zanotti, a 17-year-old point guard.
"Last year, we came the day after Kevin Durant dropped 66," said a disappointed Lorenzo Delloiacovo, a 16-year-old point guard.
The players hung around looking at the park, laughing and talking to Rucker Park announcer Hannibal "The Most Electrifying" about who ranks as the top streetballer ever.
Imbuzeiro said the team planned to come back Tuesday.
"You have people who need passports to come to the Entertainers Basketball Classic," Hannibal said. "This tournament is the hottest ticket in town. We can't be shut down."