There’s a unique bond formed between players on a basketball court. During a game — even in the heat of competition — players can develop a respect for one another.
It’s that thinking that led Riverhead residents Dwayne Eleazer and Larry Williams to create the Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament. Now in its seventh year, the tournament has blossomed into an annual showcase of outstanding basketball — all in the hopes of bringing the community together and curtailing future violence.
“You can come on a basketball court and play without any violence, you might see that person in the street,” Mr. Eleazer said in between games Saturday on the first day of the tournament. “I played ball with him, we can talk this out.”
The latest tournament at the Riverhead Town basketball court on Horton Avenue hit even closer to home this year. Just over six months ago, Riverhead resident Demitri Hampton was killed in a still unsolved shooting.
Mr. Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, ran a raffle during the tournament to raise money for the scholarship formed in her son’s honor. By midday Saturday, she already had more than $400 and was hoping to reach $1,000 by the tournament’s conclusion Sunday.
Ms. Trent said her son Jamal Davis has played in the tournament several times and did so again this year.
Players wore T-shirts with names on the back of people hurt by street violence.
The event has grown to where teams from all across the region come to compete for the nearly $2,000 prize. Teams from New York City and New Jersey participated this year.
Clarence Alonzo, a 2004 Longwood graduate, said his team was prepared to defend its title from a year ago.
“We probably have two good teams that can give us a run for our money,” Mr. Alonzo said. “Everybody else has to buckle their seatbelt up and take this ride with us.”
The biggest competition was likely a team led by 6-foot-6 J.J. Moore, a former Brentwood player who played at the University of Pittsburgh. He’s currently going into his senior year at Rutgers after transferring.
In the past, NBA player A.J. Price has even shown up to play. Organizers weren’t sure whether Mr. Price would make an appearance this year.
“He plays on one of the better teams,” said referee Cliff Rowland of Center Moriches. “He’s like one of the ringers. In the championship game, A.J. shows up.”
Mr. Williams said the event is also an opportunity to bring together the community and police officers.
“If the guy’s know the officer, and the officer’s know them, if there’s a problem you’re more apt to talk to each other,” he said.
As many as 500 people stopped by the tournament Saturday, which ran all day. There were nine teams (one dropped out) playing in a double elimination tournament. The semifinals and championship are Sunday.