Green giving back to his Philly neighborhood

Posted: June 26, 2014

MIKE GREEN always had this vision as he was growing up in North Philly. He wanted to do something for his community.

The point guard and Horizon League Player of the Year for Brad Stevens' first Butler team, Green left college in 2008 with a résumé and a talent that was going to allow him to play basketball professionally, make a nice living and translate what he imagined long ago into something tangible.

This weekend at the courts at the Blumberg Projects (22nd & Jefferson), where Green grew up, he will be running a basketball tournament for middle school kids.

"I've been looking for ways to give back to my community specifically," Green said. "I had a million ideas and I've been trying to get them in motion. Last year, I did a camp."

This year, he is doing the tournament. It's not an AAU Tournament. In fact, Green did not invite any of the official AAU teams in the area.

"The majority of them already have shoe deals and stuff like that," Green said. "I just wanted to sponsor one. I couldn't figure out who to sponsor. Whoever [the tournament champion] is, I will sponsor."

Rodney Veney, Green's business manager, knows the AAU circuit.

"To be sponsored by the big shoe companies you must have a powerhouse team," Veney said. "I had the opportunity to work with AAU programs past and present. In order to maintain your deal with that particular shoe company you have to be ranked, have a personal sponsor and/or have at least two top prospects on your team.

"What makes what Mike is doing unique is that he doesn't care about the top prospect in the area because he wasn't that coming out of high school. He had to work hard to get where he is today. His idea is devoted to change, helping these young kids experience life outside of North Philadelphia, by traveling and competing on the highest stages."

Green first played professionally in Turkey. Last year, he played in Russia. He has also played in Belgium and three different cities in Italy.

It is a long way from the Projects, Franklin Learning Center, two seasons at Towson and his last two at Butler where he played for teams that were 59-11 and were an overtime loss against Tennessee (2008) from consecutive Sweet 16 appearances.

The Bulldogs were 29-7 Green's first season and lost to what would become two-time defending champion Florida in the Sweet 16. The next season, they were 30-4 under Stevens when Green led the team in scoring, rebounds and assists. Two seasons later, Butler was that Gordon Hayward halfcourt near miss from a national championship. Green helped lay the foundation.

To understand Green's game, you had to see it and feel it. He simply never took no for an answer. His 759 college free throw attempts best tell his basketball story statistically.

This weekend's tournament tells his story monetarily. Putting on a tournament like this is not cheap. The tournament fees for teams are nominal or none at all, depending on what kids can afford. That is where Green comes in. He will be making up the difference from what comes in to what it takes to run the tournament.

The tournament is scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday, with Friday games possible depending on how many teams ultimately sign up.

"I have a lot of interest," Green said. "I have about 12 rosters."

The Sixers' Jason Richardson is supporting Green's effort. Schedule permitting, he may be at some of the games this weekend. Either way, he is a contributor and plans to be even more involved in the community when he retires.

The projects, his boyhood home, are coming down soon, Green said. So, he really wanted to do this tournament in this place this year.

Green has an offer to go back and play in Russia this season, but he has not yet made up his mind about that, as other offers may materialize. He definitely knows where he will be this weekend - at the Blumberg Projects overseeing a tournament for middle school kids right around the corner from where a young kid name Mike Green once had his first hoop dreams.

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