Tyhon Pina and Marques Houtman are known as outstanding athletes in the New Bedford area. With the assistance of Michael Daniel, Athletic Director for the Martha's Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, the trio are resurrecting the former "Boat to the Basket Youth Basketball Showcase."

It's a one-day basketball tournament with a pre-planned twist: to get New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard youth together to play basketball, but also to hear from people who've battled with their opioid addiction.

"We're getting the ball rolling again," Houtman said. "The idea here is to build relationships between our two communities."

There's more to it than just social interaction.

"The opioid epidemic on the island, with our younger crowd, is big and bad," Daniel said. "So the way we set up the program was to have the youth play 40 to 50 percent of the games, saving time so everyone could gather to hear inspiring personal stories from recovering drug users about what the opioids did to them, and how they nearly gave up living for the deadly painkillers."

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Houtman and Pina reached out to the local high schools and basketball clubs and gathered about 50 players and 10 coaches for what will now be called the "Back to School Jamboree," and that will run through the Martha's Vineyard Boys and Girls Club.

From the seventh grade up to high school, the August 27 tournament will take place at Niantic Park in Oak Bluffs. This year's theme will also bring in autism awareness.

"The kids will play ball, meet new friends, listen to inspiring people and also have time to go to the beach," Daniel said.

According to both Pina and Houtman, this will be their first trip to the resort island for a majority of the kids.

"Everything is going as planned," Houtman said. "But if anyone can help transport the kids to Woods Hole, that would be a huge assist."

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

Pina said this is his first year helping out and hopes this tournament reaches the kids who often times are overlooked. Houtman also said he wants to inspire the kids to reach their full potential.

"In a perfect world, all young people would have access to a safe and fun space, engaging youth development experiences, and caring professionals to guide them along the way," Daniel said.

This basketball tournament exists to prove every kid has what it takes to become innovative, caring and responsible citizens.

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