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LPD, LDHS basketball team get in the game with local youth

Photos by Jessica Hood Photography

The basketball hoop on Bub Avenue had seen better days.

The backboard was askew. The net was in tatters. The rim was bent. Its height was not necessarily ­ let’s say ­ official.

But the neighborhood kids showed up every day anyway, shooting from the street to a hoop at the edge of Cynthia Hill’s front yard where her 13-year-old son, Willietoe Hill and friends play pick-up games.

When the game got loud, the Laurens Police Department was called, but there were no handcuffs, no chastisements. Instead, the LPD worked with local businesses to replace the worn out hoop, provide the neighborhood kids with a couple of new basketballs and then recruited the Laurens District High boys basketball team to help with a police call that turned into a celebration of the game.

“It turned into a pretty cool opportunity for us to do some community policing,” said LPD Chief Keith Grounsell.

Former Clemson offensive lineman turned LPD officer Tayquon Johnson and Patrol Sgt. Dwayne Richey responded to the call and decided to do build better relationships with the kids on Bub Avenue.

Grounsell said Richey and Johnson advised the kids to watch for traffic and, yeah, maybe keep the volume down a little.

“We wanted to encourage them,” Grounsell said. “We wanted them to keep doing the right thing instead of vandalizing things and doing some of the other things kids in those neighborhoods are doing. We wanted to help them take it to the next level.”

Involving the LDHS varsity basketball team was a chance for the younger street-ball players to interact with the Raiders, some of whom are from that same neighborhood.

LDHS head coach Armond Flood said it was a good deed for his team – as well as a teaching moment.

“We want to be able to give back to the community – to have a sense of pride of what you’re doing as a Raider,” Flood said. “We want to teach our players that what they do on and off the court not only means something to the school but to the community.”

WalMart donated a new basketball goal, while Tractor Supply donated sand to fill the base of the goal to keep it standing tall.

Flood’s first season at LDHS has included its share of on-the-court struggles, but he said days like the one on Bub Avenue have been some of the wins behind the scenes.

“Our success this year was reflected by no means in our record,” he said. “Our six seniors have been accepted to 15 colleges. We’ve had no attendance issues – nothing like that. This year was about laying a foundation.”

Soon after school, as happens most days, other kids joined Willietoe Hill, but this time they found the police, the Raiders and others gathered around the new goal.

“They were literally coming out of the woods to play basketball,” Laurens Police Public Information Officer Lt. Dave Rodgers said.

They found a new hoop, but the LPD found an open lane into the community there, Grounsell said.

“It gave us an opening,” he said. “We work for the community, anything we can do to make a safer and better environment is what we want to do. . . . With this relationship now, maybe this young man and the others will be more apt to talk with us about problems and be able to talk it out instead of acting out.”

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