Growing up in Baltimore, San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay felt his basketball skills were overlooked. College coaches, he realized, would often pay more attention to recruits in New York and Washington.
After becoming The Baltimore Sun's Co-Player of the Year as a senior in 2003-04 — capping a standout high school career with two seasons at Eastern Tech and two at Archbishop Spalding — Gay vowed to give his home city a platform for recognition.
So, entering his 12th NBA season, Gay will host a tournament at CCBC-Dundalk this weekend — the Rudy Gay Flight 22 Classic — for local players to showcase their abilities against some of the nation's top competition.
"It's a chance for the city to be glamorized for something other than the negative," Gay said. "Baltimore City has been negative for a long time, and this is something good that we can go out there and say that we have kids doing the right thing.
"Everybody looks up to everybody, so those kids look up to me, and the younger generation looks up to those kids that are going to play. We need more good role models."
Gay approached his sister, Yozmin, with an idea for the showcase a few years ago, but playing across the country for the Sacramento Kings made it difficult for him to plan and execute.
But when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in January and opted out of his Kings contract, signing with the Spurs in the offseason, Gay made time to organize the event.
Yozmin helped through her role as executive director of the Rudy Gay Flight 22 Foundation, and Gay has recruited paid youth volunteers from Baltimore.
He's planning to host more than 30 Amateur Athletic Union teams from across the country for the three-day affair. The 14-17U teams will compete Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., the 10-13U teams play Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and there's all-age-group play Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The foundation will also recognize eight local service organizations, welcome celebrity guests — "that's a secret," Gay said — and offer live music and giveaways.
"It is a tournament," Yozmin said, "but we also wanted to make it a community event."
After Gay's involvement in building playgrounds throughout the city and partnering with Target to treat low-income families to gifts at Christmas, Gay feels the tournament is the next step to improving Baltimore and promoting the area's basketball skills.
"It's not like it's a shortage of talent," Gay said. "It's just they haven't had the stage at home, so I just wanted to make sure those kids get the chance."
Rudy Gay Flight 22 Classic
What: Showcase of top-tier AAU basketball teams (10U-17U)
Where: CCBC-Dundalk gymnasium, 7200 Sollers Point Road
When: Friday, Aug. 11, 5 p.m.-11 p.m., 14U-17U; Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., 10U-13U; Sunday, Aug. 13, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., all age groups
Beneficiary: The Flight 22 Foundation, which provides disadvantaged youth with proper access to resources and opportunities that will increase their self confidence and leadership skill to successfully compete in the workforce.