Hoop league has no boundaries for growth
Aug. 5, 2004
Darren J. Gendron
Staff Writer

Raymond Whiten has a heart the size of a basketball.

For the past five years, Whiten has organized Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries, a summer league program for Frederick youth.

"Originally, we wanted an avenue for kids who didn't play baseball for this time of year," said Whiten, the league's president.

He got together with a childhood friend and started up the idea of a summer basketball league. Soon, they had enlisted eight other coaches, all graduates of Frederick and Thomas Johnson high schools. They were already coaching in the Mid-Maryland or the Sertoma leagues, which is why the organization is called Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries.

But starting a league from scratch isn't the easiest of undertakings.

"Monetarily, it was very hard, but I put a lot of my money up front," Whiten said.

A graduate of the University of Maryland with a law degree, Whiten put some of his knowledge to work. While he funded the first two years of the league out of pocket, it established Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries. And with that history, he was able to get 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, becoming a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

"I just look at it as giving back to the community," Whiten said.

For the first two seasons, the only other source of finances for the league was a $15 entry fee. They had to get volunteer referees, and there were only 14 teams for the first season.

Now, there are 12 teams in the league's junior division alone (which is open to students from fifth grade through seventh), and another eight teams in the senior division (for eighth through 10th graders).

The Junior Division is named after NCAA Division I universities such as Maryland, Wake Forest, Connecticut and Georgetown, while National Basketball Association teams such as the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls make up the Senior Division.

Tim Wims, 44, coaches the Cincinnati team in the junior division. He was coaching in the Sertoma League when Whiten asked him to also help with BCWB. Since then, Wims volunteered as a coach for the past four years.

"For the love of the game and the love of kids...sometimes," he said, shooting a look full of jest at his own kids.

Lamont Wims, 12, is one of his players on Cincinnati. While the elder Wims began playing basketball when he was about seven, it was limited to pick-up games.

"I didn't play organized basketball until high school and church league," Wims said. "The kids are bigger, stronger and more advanced than we were. It's year-round organized basketball."

Each week, the BCWB takes on a theme. Some weeks, it's as simple as Popsicle Week or Pizza Week. But as community support for the league has grown, they've been able to up the ante on their themes.

During opening week in June, BCWB hosted an opening day celebration, which included Frederick City Mayor Jennifer Dougherty giving out lanyards to each player.

This past Saturday was National Student-Athlete Day. Players maintaining a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher through the 2003-2004 school year who had made a significant contribution to the community were recognized with a plaque and a ceremony.

Whiten took it a step further, nominating each winning athlete for a Giant Steps Award, which includes a $1,000 scholarship.

Tyler Snoot, a rising sophomore at Thomas Johnson High, was one of those nominated, having kept a 4.0 GPA while playing basketball year-round.

"I've been playing for as long as I could pick up a ball," Snoot said. "I've gotten a lot better this year."

Snoot also plays on an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team and in a winter league. But he's also careful to get his homework done first.

"I usually finish it at school, because they give us time before practice," Snoot said.

Despite only five years of history, the league is already starting to collect success stories. A former All-Gazette and Thomas Johnson alumna Amanda Jones is a sophomore at Lafayette College. The Gazette's 2002-2003 Player of the Year, Curtis Crews of Frederick, is a sophomore at Montgomery-Germantown College. TJ alum Darnell Edmonds is a rising sophomore point guard at Hood College, and The Gazette's 2001-2002 Player of the Year Jermaine Thomas, another TJ grad, is a rising junior guard of LaSalle University.

With the growing impact on the surrounding community, the amount of organizations willing to help the league has grown. This year, there were sizeable donations and grants from the Community Foundation of Frederick County, 1st Horizon Home Loan Mortgage in Bethesda, and Roberts Bail Bonds. Thomas Johnson Middle School teachers pitched in $500 to help cover the costs of enrolling kids.

With this year being the biggest yet, Whiten still has plans to make the league bigger.

"It's really going to be how much volunteer support we get," Whiten said. "That's the only holdback."

The top to-do on his list is adding a girls league. While there are girls currently in the league, they play on coed teams.

Notes: For more information on Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries, call (301) 663-0892, or online at http://www.bcwb.org/. The league's playoffs will run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. this Saturday.