Woodland Hills hosts MLK basketball tournament | TribLIVE.com
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Woodland Hills hosts MLK basketball tournament

Jamie Martines
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Woodland Hills junior varsity huddles up while taking part in a basketball tournament benefiting student gun violence groups at Woodland Hills High School on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Woodland Hills junior varsity player, Jihadd Dennard, shoots while taking part in a basketball tournament benefiting student gun violence groups at Woodland Hills High School on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Woodland Hills junior varsity huddles up during halftime while taking part in a basketball tournament benefiting student gun violence groups at Woodland Hills High School on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Ciara Beachom, 16, of Braddock, takes a photograph of a photo of her deceased cousin, Jeffrey Nash, during a basketball tournament benefiting student gun violence groups at Woodland Hills High School on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Woodland Hills junior varsity player, Ricco Smith, shoots while taking part in a basketball tournament benefiting student gun violence groups at Woodland Hills High School on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Imani Christian Academy and Woodland Hills junior varsity play as part of a basketball tournament benefiting student gun violence groups at Woodland Hills High School on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.

It’s a big weekend for high school basketball as 37 teams and some of the best players from across the region face off during a three-day tournament at Woodland Hills High School.

But the school district’s athletic director, Ron Coursey, hopes athletes and fans alike will see the event — dubbed the Stand Against Violence Showcase — as more than just a few dozen basketball games. The goal is to raise consciousness during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend about gun violence in the immediate community and across the state and nation, he said.

“A tool to not only raise awareness, but also to get people from different communities and different cities to address the issue at hand,” Coursey said of the event, which planned to bring together teams from across Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Games started Saturday and will continue through Monday.

Highlands High School coach Tyler Stoczynski agreed. The school was scheduled to play Sunday against Greater Johnstown.

“It’s a special event because our communities need to continue to band together,” he said.

Greater Latrobe High School was scheduled to participate before pulling out of the tournament because of weather concerns. Coach Brad Wetzel said his players were excited to compete against some of the top teams in the state. The tournament’s theme is also important, he said.

“One of the reasons we joined that tournament is because that’s a good cause,” Wetzel said. “It’s nice when sports can kind of bridge those gaps.”

The Woodland Hills community lost at least five students to gun violence over the past two years.

“A lot of our kids are from the city of Pittsburgh and know some of the kids who have been gunned down,” said Khayree Wilson, head coach for the team from First Love Christian Academy in Washington, Pa.

The athletes on his team are looking forward to playing in a high-level tournament and showing off for friends and family, he said. But the cause — combating gun violence — is personal for some of his players.

Michael Glasby, head coach for the team from the Severn School, near Annapolis, Md., said he looks forward to supporting the tournament and the cause for years to come.

“Just because if you’re impacted or not, directly by violence, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a voice, or want to give back,” Glasby said.

The spotlight isn’t just on athletes this weekend. The student group Coalition Against Violence is helping to organize the event, Coursey said.

On Sunday, the group will officially join a national network of anti-violence organizations, called Students Against Violence Everywhere, Coursey said. There will be a break in the basketball program to present the group with a check for $2,000 to help fund a trip to a national gun violence summit in North Carolina.

Community organizations and service providers, including the Center for Victims, will also host tables throughout the weekend, Coursey said.

IGS Energy, a Dublin, Ohio-based company with an office in Monroeville, provided lodging for out-of-town teams.

Pittsburgh defense attorney Frank Walker is also sponsoring the event.

“I see a lot of young kids come in right after high school because they made a poor decision — they got kicked off the team or kicked out of school,” Walkersaid. He recalled his high school basketball career in West Virginia: His team qualified for a national tournament but couldn’t go because it didn’t have a sponsor to help cover travel costs. It was disappointing, and he saw some of his teammates leave the sport.

Now, he wants to make sure young athletes have the support to stay in a positive environment, like the basketball court.

“For me to see them there, as opposed to my office, I would prefer that any day of the week,” he said.


Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.


Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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