Five years ago, Terrance “Munch” Williams ’02 began coaching a group of 12-year-old boys, playing basketball in the gym of a New York City recreation center. Now, that same group of boys is ranked first in the country, champions of the 16u Invitational Division at the Las Vegas Fab 48 tournament.
The boys are members of Team SCAN, an afterschool program devoted to developing student athletes academically, socially and athletically in the South Bronx and East Harlem areas. Under the management and coaching of Justin Weir ’02, Williams, Andre Charles ’06 and Jason Forde ’01 work with Team SCAN to provide a variety of extracurricular programming for a wide age range of kids. Winning championships is only one part of the plan.
Williams originally created the team while working for the Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network (SCAN) as Center Director of the Mulally Recreation Center. He came across a group of talented 11- and 12-year-olds, willing to learn how to properly play basketball. When he brought the kids to compete in the Hoops On the River Youth Basketball Tournament in 2008, Williams bumped into Weir and Forde, who were running the competition.
Afterwards, Williams invited the two men to observe his team’s practices, and he offered them an opportunity to get involved. “We were all looking for a way to get back,” says Forde, who played intramural basketball with Williams at Wesleyan. “We all love the sport of basketball, playing together and watching basketball.”
Forde and Weir joined Williams in coaching the kids to compete in more tournaments— not only locally, but also in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) competitions “outside of the New York area, to give them an idea of how life is outside the city.”
The new coaching team also decided that Team SCAN should serve a greater educational purpose as well: With programming for both middle and high school-level boys, Team SCAN aims to “hold them accountable for being a responsible student as well as a responsible citizen, and stay out of trouble.” They hope to help the kids get admitted and transition into private or boarding schools and to prepare them academically, as well as socially, for college and life.
“We track their grades, get their report cards, and if there are any issues we have an open line of communication between not only the kids but with their advisors,” Forde says. Team SCAN requires a minimum GPA of 2.5 from each kid. Not only is that important in school placement, but it also meets the NCAA requirements for college athletes. The program provides a wide array of academic supports services to accomplish this goal, from tutoring to SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) and SAT prep classes.
Additionally, Team SCAN gives informal mentoring sessions about the importance of dress, proper handshakes, eye contact, and confidence in social interactions. Team SCAN also plans this summer to introduce courses in financial literacy, as well as in media and social media training and interview techniques.
“It was always impressed upon us to always be in a position to give back, especially to our youth,” Forde says. “All of us came from working class or working class immigrant cultures from inner city communities in urban America. We wanted to give back in a way that’s fun and that helps kids who were like us, giving them better academic and social opportunities so they can contribute meaningfully to society.”
After helping with the enrollment and selection process, if Team SCAN succeeds in placing a player into a prep school, it will continue to regularly follow up with the player’s coach and academic advisors. The kids cannot afford to slack off, Forde said, because if they plan to play basketball at a higher level, they must have “an appreciation of how education is as much or more important than the athletic part of things.”
The program so far has enjoyed a great deal of success. “Our 17-year-olds are our oldest group,” Forde said. “and a majority of them are being recruited by D1 level schools.” Those players, many of whom have been part of the team since its inception, made up last year’s first place team in the 16u division and were selected to participate this year in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. In addition, Team SCAN’s 15u and 14u teams both took second place in their respective divisions at the Fab 48, and Team SCAN as a whole was named 2012 Summer Program of the Year by Five Star Basketball.
“We’re trying to re-define the idea of a student athlete, especially in New York City,” Forde said.