BY MATT SHORTALL
Kids in Queens will have a chance to learn ball from some real life pros this summer. The Family on Three Foundation, a youth-enrichment non-profit group, in cooperation with the office of state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), is hosting the first-annual Daniel O’Connell Park Classic, a basketball tournament for high school and elementary students.
The tournament will take place through July and also offer a morning skills workshop with seasoned players like Anthony Mason Jr. and Ryan “Special fx” Williams.
“Kids need role models, period,” said Anthony Mason Jr., who founded Family on Three in honor of his late father, Anthony Mason Sr., a former forward for the New York Nicks. “As of late, we adults haven’t been doing the best job at being role models. As a professional athlete, I am aware of what kind of influence I have and I plan on using every bit of it to repair our communities and give these kids a fighting chance.”
The program meets at the courts in Daniel O’Connell Park on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Activities include a basketball skills clinic from 9 a.m. to11 a.m. The tournament’s games begin at noon and run through the end of the day.
The basketball courts of Queens have been the place where many professional players first laced up their sneakers. Hoop legends like Anthony Mason Sr., Troy “Escalade” Jackson, Kenny Anderson and many more have called the world’s borough their home.
Mason Jr. attended St. John’s University, where he played as a forward for the Red Storm before trying out for the Miami Heat. Upon his father’s passing in February of last year, Mason Jr. dedicated himself to more philanthropic efforts. He started Family on Three, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, in order that he might give back to his community through youth engagement.
Born in Queens, Williams first found his talent playing in the Rucker Park League at age 16. He earned the nickname “Special fx” for his near superhuman dunking skills. Williams and Mason Jr. were teammates together on Red Storm while he was studying sports management at St. John’s. Shortly after graduation he was recruited by the AND1 Mixtape Tour and was featured in the popular series, “ESPN’s Street Ball: The AND1 Mix Tape Tour.” Williams played ball in Japan for 2 years and has won numerous dunking contests worldwide.
Although only in its first year, Family on Three would like to make the Daniel O’Connell Park Classic an annual event for local kids in Queens, something Comrie agrees the borough should place a greater emphasis on. “In my second term as part of the New York State Senate, I find it import to embrace and uphold the need for family-oriented activities,” said Comrie.