Weekend at 'Melo's

The Baltimore Sun

One of the oldest neighborhood axioms around is that you never forget where you came from. Carmelo Anthony is living proof of that.

The Baltimore native, in town to promote his annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament, showed up at the Cloverdale Park courts yesterday hoping to inspire his old neighborhood and remind everyone that an entire world awaits those brave enough to reach for it. He brought along a group of A-list celebrities to help him get that message across to the more than 1,000 who attended.

"It's always good to give back," said Anthony (Towson Catholic), who grew up playing on these courts after moving to Baltimore when he was 8. "This is my home, this is my city. I can never forget where I came from."

The event, called The H.O.O.D (Holding Our Own Destiny) Movement, has grown considerably in the four years it has been held. Originally a one-day affair, it now encompasses an entire weekend. Things kicked off Friday night with a VIP dinner and culminate today with a brunch at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, where an exhibit celebrating Anthony's achievements and Baltimore ties will be unveiled.

All of the weekend's festivities support Anthony's charitable foundation, with proceeds being used to provide a variety of programs and services to underprivileged children. Anthony's youth development center on East Fayette Street is the main beneficiary, but proceeds have been allocated for other needs as well, such as remodeling the bathrooms at the park.

The All-Star forward, who is getting ready to depart for Beijing as a member of the U.S. Olympic team, said his desire to give back to the community stemmed from the shortage of positive role models available when he was a teenager.

"Growing up, I didn't have anybody to do this for me," he said. "It was guys on the corner I had to look up to."

With 43 teams entered in the tournament, some from as far away as Philadelphia, 'Melo's event has become the premiere local showcase for many of the area's hoopsters. Friends, family members and basketball fans watched as players who'd been looking forward to this event all summer took advantage of the opportunity to show off their respective games.

"We get a chance to play and show what we can do," said Donte Pretlow, 14, who competed in the 15-and-under division.

The event had a carnival-like atmosphere, complete with activities for younger children and those not participating in the tournament to enjoy. Platinum-selling rapper T.I. (real name Clifford Harris) took the microphone and addressed the crowd, stressing education and hard work as the keys to making it in life.

Fellow NBA player and Baltimore native Sam Cassell (Dunbar) was also on hand and said he applauded Anthony's efforts to show everyone a different side of Baltimore than the one commonly depicted on television.

"There's more to Baltimore City than 'The Wire,' " he said.

While the players focused their attentions on the court, many parents were just as excited to see someone like Anthony, who is revered in the neighborhood, take time from his busy schedule to reinforce the same messages they try to get across to their kids every day.

"It helps to let him know there are positive things he can do with his time and his energy opposed to hanging out in the street," said Diann Smith about her son Kennard, who competed in the 11-and-under division. "[Carmelo] is a motivation for him that, regardless of where you are now, if you do the right things you can progress in life."

Not content to simply lend his name and checkbook to an event, Anthony said it was important for him to be here. He interacted with players throughout the day and handed out the trophies at the end of the event.

Anthony's Amateur Athletic Union coach, Vinnie Breckenridge, summed up his former player's feelings best:

"He loves Baltimore," he said.


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