BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A preteen basketball tournament that aims to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble in Bed-Stuy will celebrate its 35th year on Saturday.
The Kevin Bushell Bed-Stuy Pre-Teen Basketball Classic is a competition held every summer in the playground of P.S. 305 at 344 Monroe St. and boasts NBA stars Stephon Marbury, Rafer Alston, Jamaal Tinsley and Omar Cook as alums.
The preteen tournament has become one of the most respected in the city, drawing players from across the borough, the Upper West Side, Long Island, the Bronx and New Jersey, said longtime staff member and organizer Kevin Harewood.
"A lot of other tournaments come and go," Harewood said. "This one has run consecutively for all those years."
Started in 1980 by the late Kevin Bushell and a group of supporters, the tournament helps showcase kids under 13 while also giving them an outlet and keeping them away from street life, Harewood said.
Now run by commissioner George Littlejohn, every year about 10 teams play through a 14-to-16 game regular season, followed by an August playoff tournament to crown a champion, an all-star game and, finally, an awards ceremony in September that honors the best teams and stand-out athletes.
Through the years Harewood, who filmed a documentary about the tournament for its 25th anniversary, said the competition reached out to thousands of kids that often lived with unstable home lives.
"Now Bed-Stuy is a gentrified area," Harewood said. "It was not a gentrified area at that particular point. So you had a lot of these kids coming from challenging backgrounds."
And despite improved safety in the neighborhood through the years, there are always more kids the tournament can help, Harewood said.
"It is a changing neighborhood, but it isn't changing that fast," he said. "And it hasn't changed in totality."
The Kevin Bushell Bed-Stuy Pre-Teen Classic begins Saturday at 1 p.m. in the playground of P.S. 305.