Hoopademix basketball camp offers sports drills on the court, and life lessons off of it


CHICAGO (CBS) — The Morning Insiders recently showed us a sky-high view of mega development Lincoln Yards. In the middle of all the construction underway, you’ll find children playing.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us to the Lincoln Yards basketball courts, where the name of the game is diversity, not defense. 

Marpray Monson started Hoopademix summer camp in the height of the pandemic. He jumped through hoops to bring basketball to 2nd through 8th graders.

“During the lockdown camp, everything was six feet,” he said, stepping back to mimic social distancing.

This summer, it’s back to normal. Real camp. No masks, no temperature checks, no spread-out water breaks.

“Now it’s, ‘Come to camp. Make yourself at home. Let’s have fun,'” said Monson.

The kids call him Coach Pray, and he’s thanking God that COVID-19 is subsiding, because his end game is all about contact.

“You are seeing kids from the West Side and the South Side have great interactions, great playdates, becoming lifelong friends with kids from Gold Coast and Lincoln Park,” said Monson.

The diversity at Hoopademix is intentional. Players passing basketballs may have never passed each other on the street.

“No matter your background, everyone shares the common passion of basketball,” said Rohin Shah, an 8th grade player from Wicker Park.

He and Rheayanna Ferguson, who is from Lombard, say it’s all about technique on the court and talking when off.

“When we’re under the tent [taking a water break] … we just walk up and start a conversation with someone. We’re talking about each other, and we’re just learning,” said Ferguson.

Assistant coach Terry Gordon says watching the kids make baskets is great, but watching them make friendships is even better.

“As a former player myself, seeing that coming together, and things of that nature, it’s pretty beautiful, he said.

It’s a sweet concept with a location that can’t be sugarcoated. Hoopademix camp takes place on grounds that’ll become Lincoln Yards. Not everyone agrees with the placement of the new Northside development.

“They [developer from Sterling Bay] really give a home to kids through all walks of life,” said Monson.

Sterling Bay doesn’t charge him to use the courts at Ada Street and Concord Place. In fact, the developer calls the area “Meanwhile” with the idea that Lincoln Yards construction will take a decade to complete and while waiting, the public can make use basketball courts, soccer fields, and more – free of charge.

“Let’s not get mistaken, while Chicago is the most amazing city in the world, it’s still the most geographically segregated city,” said Monson. “The hope of that is, in time, we don’t have these geographically segregated neighborhoods anymore.”

So, after the shots go deep, so does the conversation. Coach Pray says cooldown often includes discussion about adversity, mental health challenges and more.

Hoopademix summer camp runs until August 12. Then there’s travel programming during the school year.

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