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'Hoops After Dark' uses basketball to help fight crime in Cleveland

Over 140 men, aged 18-26, spent the last six weeks competing in a basketball tournament and development program in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND — On the night before Cleveland police and political leaders will issue a midyear report on crime and gun violence in the city, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse was the site for a different kind of event to help curb crime.

The city of Cleveland and the Cavaliers played host to the Hoops After Dark Championship Game on Monday evening. Hoops After Dark brought 140 young men from Cleveland's neighborhoods together for a six-week basketball tournament. The program was part of Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb's comprehensive violence prevention strategy.

"I got some of my friends off the streets and stuff and headed to the gym," said participant Andre Smith.

But Hoops After Dark wasn't just about basketball. It also served as a development program with workshops ranging from job readiness, to gun safety, health, and education. "A lot of people came into here, especially me, thinking this is just for basketball. Each workshop has become more and more," added Donald Hughes, another player in the league.

Herman Jackson was in the league when it was called "Midnight Basketball" in the 1990s. Activist Yvonne Pointer came up with the idea after her daughter was murdered on the streets of Cleveland.

"Knowing that fighting with each other from streets to streets was nonsense. And I didn't know it at the time until I met these new guys, met them on the court and now we are friends 30 years later," Jackson says.

So if you believe that nothing good happens after dark, think again.

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