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Harlem Basketball Tournament To Resume Following Rucker Park Shooting

By Jeff Mays | July 26, 2012 7:18pm

HARLEM — The Entertainers Basketball Classic at Rucker Park could restart as soon as Monday, after a shooting at the tournament Wednesday night left five people injured.

Greg Marius, founder and CEO of the tournament, said Thursday that he plans to hire additional security officers and resume the popular hoops series, which draws famous basketball players to Harlem each summer.

On Wednesday, a gunman opened fire in the crowded Harlem park, hitting four men in their 20s and a teenager after what police say was a dispute over a call or heckling. The victims were taken to the hospital in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries.

Hundreds of people could be seen running on a video posted on WorldStarHipHop.com. NBA free agent guard and former New York Knick Nate Robinson was sitting court-side but was not hurt.

Entertainers Basketball Classic posted this photo of former New York Knicks star Nate Robinson, who was in the stands when shots rang out during a game in Rucker Park July 25, 2012. Robinson escaped unscathed.
Entertainers Basketball Classic posted this photo of former New York Knicks star Nate Robinson, who was in the stands when shots rang out during a game in Rucker Park July 25, 2012. Robinson escaped unscathed.
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Entertainers Basketball Classic

Marius said the shooting is just a temporary blip for the tournament, which features the best street ball players and visits from NBA superstars and legends.

"It's not like we have a history," Marius said. "I haven't had an incident in 15 years and it definitely wasn't a shooting. We search, we don't let people smoke or drink."

Police sources said the shooter may have been punched before the incident, which occurred during a game between Team 914 and Polo Grounds.

"Someone in the stands heckled the Polo Grounds team," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday.

"Someone wearing a green shirt, we have on film a lime green shirt, took out a gun, shot four people in the vicinity of the basketball court, one of them being a player, and chased another individual across the street and shot that individual."

Marius said the tournament's security performs pat downs before people are allowed to enter the court but added that a plethora of area basketball tournaments has meant less police manpower than in previous years as well as fewer metal barricades used for crowd control.

The NYPD declined to comment about officers being present or barricades.

The Parks Department referred questions to police and tournament organizers.

The shooting comes after 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan was struck and killed by a stray bullet Sunday night when a shootout erupted during a memorial basketball tournament on the Forest Houses basketball court in the Morrisania section of The Bronx.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued a statement calling the Rucker Park shooting "senseless."

"Our communities must join forces with the New York Police Department to crack down on gun possession, get illegal weapons off the streets and spread the message that this kind of criminal activity has no place in our city," Stringer said.

The summer of 2012 had started out slow for the tournament. Last year, stars like the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant were more available to show up because of the NBA lockout.

"We were struggling at the beginning of the summer, and then suddenly everyone wanted to be involved," Marius said.

A new electronic scoreboard with video was installed by a major sponsor this year, Marius said.

Rapper Nas made an appearance July 17 for the release of his critically acclaimed and best-selling album "Life is Good." NBA players such as Brooklyn Nets rookie Tyshawn Taylor and Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings also played in games at the park this summer.

Community Board 10 announced plans earlier this year to push for Rucker Park to become a historic landmark because of the number of basketball greats who have played there.

Now, Marius said he doesn't want the shooting to detract from all the good the tournament has done over the years.

"I think we will be okay," he said. "One of our sponsors even called and asked: 'Are we on for tonight?'"

With reporting by Trevor Kapp