CHICAGO (SCS) — Morning Insiders recently showed us a sweeping view of the Lincoln Yards mega-development. In the middle of all the ongoing constructions, you will find children playing.
Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us to the basketball courts of Lincoln Yards, where the name of the game is diversity, not defense.
Marpray Monson launched the Hoopademix summer camp at the height of the pandemic. He jumped through hoops to bring basketball to students in grades 2 through 8.
“During lockdown camp, everything was six feet,” he said, stepping back to mimic social distancing.
This summer, things are back to normal. Real camp. No masks, no temperature checks, no staggering water cuts.
“Now it’s, ‘Come to camp. Make yourself at home. Let’s have fun,'” Monson said.
The kids call him Coach Pray, and he’s thanking God COVID-19 is easing, because his endgame is all about contact.
“You see kids from the West Side and the South Side having great interactions, great play dates, becoming lifelong friends with kids from the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park,” Monson said.
Diversity at Hoopademix is intentional. Players who pass basketballs may never have passed each other on the street.
“No matter your background, everyone shares the common passion for basketball,” said Rohin Shah, an 8th-grade player from Wicker Park.
He and Rheayanna Ferguson, who is from Lombard, say it’s all about technique on the pitch and speaking off it.
“When we are under the tent [taking a water break] …we approach and start a conversation with someone. We talk to each other and we just learn,” Ferguson said.
Assistant coach Terry Gordon says watching the kids make hoops is good, but watching them form friendships is even better.
“As a former player myself, to see this come together and things of that nature, it’s pretty beautiful,” he said.
It’s a sweet concept with a location that can’t be sugar coated. Camp Hoopademix takes place on grounds that will become Lincoln Yards. Not everyone agrees with the location of the new Northside development.
“They [developer from Sterling Bay] really give a home to kids from all walks of life,” Monson said.
Sterling Bay does not charge him to use the Ada Street and Concord Place courts. In fact, the developer is calling the area “Meanwhile” with the idea that Lincoln Yards will take a decade to build and in the meantime the public can use basketball courts, soccer fields and more for free.
“Make no mistake, while Chicago is the most amazing city in the world, it’s still the most geographically segregated city,” Monson said. “The hope is that over time we don’t have these geographically separate neighborhoods anymore.”
So after the strokes go deep, so does the conversation. Coach Pray says cooldown often includes discussions of adversity, mental health issues and more.
The Hoopademix summer camp runs until August 12. Then there are travel programs during the school year.