Whiten: Summer league constantly improving

Basketball Coaches Without Borders is now in 7th season

Thursday, June 22, 2006

When Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries started its summer league back in 2000, the purpose was fairly simple, says the association’s CEO, Raymond Whiten.

Noticing that African-American children in the Frederick area didn’t usually play organized baseball, he decided to create a sports outlet for those children to participate in. And he wanted to couple it with academically geared programs to help kids succeed in middle and high school.

But as Whiten has found out over the years, what he was providing was needed in a much larger area, and a much more diverse population, than just Frederick city.

‘‘I guess back in 2000, it was the most obvious thing that stood out,” Whiten said. ‘‘Seven years later, I don’t advertise it as much. It’s an open opportunity for any kid, and that’s how it reads in our literature.”

Over seven years, those who have taken advantage of the league have covered the gamut in race, age, sex and geography, Whitten says. As a result, the league is thriving, with 12 teams in the 5th- to 7th-grade junior division, and eight more in the 8th- to 10th-grade senior division competing at College Estates Park on muggy Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.

‘‘What we’ve found is almost all over Frederick County—from Middletown to Mount Airy—they’re all just attracted to it,” Whiten said.

Some participants have come from beyond the county, from suburban Baltimore and

Washington and Hagerstown counties—even from West Virginia. But it’s the Frederick community that is still the central focus of BCWB’s on- and off-court programs.

Basketball is the hook. But Whiten takes as much pride in BCWB’s Nicholas Leakins SAT Scholarship and Study Group. The program has helped several of the league’s players gain entrance into college—most recently Columbia’s Ronika Beard, who as a freshman played for Monroe Junior College in Rochester, N.Y., the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III national champions.

‘‘She’s just an all-around good person,” Whiten said. ‘‘She participated in our SAT scholarship program, and we helped her with tips and techniques to approach the SAT.”

Other college players with local roots are BCWB alumni as well. Amanda Jones, a sophomore biology major at Lafayette and a Thomas Johnson High grad, played in the league until 2002. Drew Gaeng, a freshman at Mount St. Mary’s and another TJ graduate, also played in the program.

But the purpose of the league isn’t player-development, Whiten says. It’s about a fun, affordable summer activity for kids who need something to do. And although sign-ups for this season have ended, next year’s registration will start as soon as the 2006 season ends, with the cost only $30 until February; it rises gradually up to $45 if you wait until just before next season starts.

If you go to Thomas Johnson Middle School, the teacher’s association will pay for you to play: They contribute, on average, about $500 a year, Whiten says. It’s those kinds of community commitments that keep the league successful.

After building the league on about 90 percent volunteer work before it gradually became more professional, Whiten will still take any help he can get. Of course, he’s already delegated day-to-day operations to his nephews, league president Dwayne and league vice president Darryl Whiten.

‘‘We’ve come a long way in a lot of different levels,” Whiten said. ‘‘The number of kids and areas we are able to reach has just expanded by leaps and bounds.”