021-Ken Stevens

Founder of Dyckman Basketball Tournament


Feature No. 21
 | September 4th, 2020

 

What was it like growing up in Dyckman in the 80s & 90s? Did you play against any top talent in the parks? 

Growing up in the Dyckman 80’s and 90’s was a little different then you see it now. There was a large amount of separation with the different nationalities in the community. Blacks and Hispanics lived in the same community but in different spaces, however in the housing complex we all lived amongst each other harmoniously. 

The community has changed for the better where we all are in a more comfortable space. The local grocery stores were places where everyone could go and shop without there being issues, but you always were on high alert of potential situations that can arise because you was on the wrong side of the street. The basketball court back then was frequented by large populations of blacks with a few hispanics that could really play and grew up in the neighborhood.  One of the real things about living in the inner city you learn at an early age of the do’s and the don'ts of things to do where to go and how you move. 

I grew up in a family with working parents in the house. Mom worked for CDA (Child Development Agency) and my dad worked for the New York Sanitation Department. I had two older brothers - Melvin and Michael - along with a younger sister, Catrina. My brothers are the reason why I was introduced to being competitive and playing sports. Everything we did was a competition: from cleaning the bathroom to cleaning our room, to doing the dishes. It's funny because you didn’t want to be the brother who wasn’t good at whatever you did, so that transferred into my childhood with my friends and competitors. 

Growing up in the Dyckman Housing Complex was great because it was filled with families with kids. Most families were made up of two brothers or a brother and sister and we all knew each other's parents so they were able to correct bad behavior or language at any given moment. If you saw someone's parent that needed help with groceries or whatever you did so without even thinking about it. That was the unwritten law of the complex. Just because they weren't your mom or dad they were still considered your family.

I grew up playing many different sports in our neighborhood kind of by default. We played whatever sport someone brought outside; if there was a football out there, we played football. If there was baseball we played baseball. If there was none of those things we played tag or raced against each other. There wasn't a day that went by where we didn’t have something to do. We had roller skates, skateboards, bikes, went swimming; everything was competitive. The buildings in the complex we lived in competed against each other: Building 7 vs Building 2, or Building 3 vs Building 6. Competition was the atmosphere of our complex. It even went as far as families vs families: The Stevens Boys vs The Singleton’s for example. 

As a young kid you learned how to work and play together. No one was left out. There was always a place for you because we would figure out what was good for all of us to play in the same space together. If you were a heavier kid, in baseball you would be the catcher and in football you were the center. If we were playing basketball you were the power forward. No one ever thought a kid couldn’t play. We figured it out and made it work. Everyone played, participated and competed. As a kid The Dyckman Housing Complex was one of the safest environments that I knew and looked forward to coming home to everyday.  

Tell us your story, how did you get Started with Dyckman Basketball? When did the tournament first start gaining momentum? 

The Dyckman Basketball Tournament Started out in The Summer of 1990 by 3 childhood friends Ken Stevens, Omar Booth & Michael Jenkins who used to travel around New York City and play against whatever park had good open run. We also had guys that traveled with us to make up our team Orrick and Sean Booth, Sean Wise, Darnel Lyles, Vince Whitney, Felix Ortiz, Kenny Johnson, Sean Couch, Ken Campbell, Anthony Darby and Garland Chambers. These are the guys who made up the TEAM 5 DEEP.

After years of traveling from playground to playground and gym to gym, Mike, Omar and myself decided to host pick-up scrimmage games in our own park; Dyckman Park. This was just us having fun and having time pass by but what we realized was the games were becoming more intense and super competitive, so we thought it would be a good idea to incorporate referee’s and same color t-shirts for identity purposes. Being from the community we all had the mindset that we cannot lose games in our park so we all played hard and together which helped us win the championship the first three years between 1990 to 1992. 

Dyckman park has so many great memories from a packed park every night to special events games hosting teams from Switzerland, France, Senegal, China, Japan, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Florida, and Los Angeles, just to name a few, I definitely would like to thank everyone that either participated, coached, refed, worked, spectated, visited or did an activation there. We truly appreciate it. 

The Dyckman Basketball Tournament has been at a high level for many many years and the community embracing the tournament has been a major part of our success. Over the summer of years of running the tournament we have had NBA players, Division I players, Streetball legends and Regular Ballplayers that can’t wait to go against the top teams or ballers from anywhere in the country. 

In 2011 Nike put together a team called “Team Nike” which was composed of the best streetball players in NYC. This campaign was displayed all across NYC and gave the Dyckman Basketball Tournament visibility to people that weren't aware of what we had been doing in NYC for many, many years. The Dyckman Basketball Tournament is led by a fantastic group of people: Isaiah Brown, Ralph Pena, Sharon Bond, Miguel Rodriguez, Naya, Catrina, Theresa Stevens, Shenia Rudolph, Jared Leake, Brandon Adams, Khadijah Campbell,Star Jones, Markie Poole, Jeff Ortiz, Alex Skuproski, Nathaniel Thorpe, Jewel Watson, David Teele, Feesa, Dominique James, DJ Logo, and DJ Zookeeper.

Dyckman is a safe haven for the community. The environment is special inside the park. How does that all come into fruition?

As a young kid living in the Dyckman area the basketball court in the big park used to be packed with the older guys and the younger guys didn't really get a chance to play on the court. This was back when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. So what we did was cut the bottom out of two garbage cans and we’d wedge them into the monkey bars that were part of the structure in the park. We also created a foul and 3-point line. We had wars back then! 

Doctor J was the man in the NBA at the time, so guys would dunk on each other with major aggression this was all happening while people was walking by in front of building 4 (3758 10th Ave) Not sure how this came about but it gave us our own safe haven within the complex and we created a brotherhood and sisterhood amongst each other. 

Dyckman Park was a site for the Holcombe Rucker League in the 70’s & early 80’s when I was a kid which is what kind of inspired us to create the Dyckman Basketball Tournament many years later.  Dyckman Park AKA the Big Park is where we watched basketball game all day on the weekends from the Holcombe Rucker League led by the site Director Jim Couch this league had some of the best competition in the summer on the weekends, this league had multiple sites so you would travel site to site on weekends and play against other youth programs or organizations.

As a kid, my family lived on The Lower East Side of New York and then moved to Dyckman. Back then the LES was totally different then what you see now. As a young kid moving uptown to a different community and amongst different demographics really didn’t affect me because I was still young and didn’t understand my new environment yet. It wasn’t until I entered PS 152 when I got to the fourth or fifth grade that I realized the demographics of the school was changing. 

I remember trying out for the track team at PS 152 with the Assistant Principal Mr. Hasset who watched me in gym class. He invited me to participate and compete in a track meet at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, which I placed first in several events. This was my first time ever winning a trophy, so I was super excited and proud of my accomplishments. 

After I graduated from PS 152 I went to JHS 52 where we now host our skills and drills program. Unfortunately this school didn't have a basketball team, but they did have a very competitive and intense after school program. This program was good because you had to participate in homework help or an educational workshop before you touched the basketball court. I played with and against some of my friends and classmates that I have known for years, so those games were good because everyone knew each other's strengths and weaknesses. 

Back then along with playing for championships you played for individual awards like most points, most assists, most rebounds and of course the MVP. I wanted to win in every category. After graduating from JHS 52  I went to John F. Kennedy High where I couldn’t find myself or get out of my own way. I struggled academically my freshman year with all the freedom between classes. As a result I never had the chance to try out for the basketball team despite doing very well when playing in gym class. 

My sophomore year was more of the same. When I look back, I didn’t really have anyone checking on me or pushing me to excel. I guess that's why I am the way I am now with the kids in the Dyckman program.  I remember going to watch the Kennedy home games and would be embarrassed that I wasn't able to play because of my grades and attendance in school so I started avoiding the gym all together.

My Senior year I really started focusing on getting my grades and truancy together as I realized my friend was about to graduate and I was so far behind. My guidance counselor who informed me I had to return for an additional year which I knew was going to be the narrative. I busted my tail, school was going good I actually made the basketball team ( Mr. Earle Meyers, Mr. Dennis Pradier & Mr. Young) was the Coaches back then. Our Team was stacked at Kennedy HS 1984 to many good brothers to mention or leave out so I will leave it like that. The PSAL ruled that I was a 5th year senior and was ineligible to play which removed me from the team I was crushed by not defeated I actually transferred to Westside HS which I got my Diploma and moved on from that situation. In 1987 the Coaches from Kennedy High got the Coaching Job at Kingsborough Community College (Brooklyn) and came to my community and asked me if I was interested in going to College I said of course they came to my house and met with my Mom and that changed my Life. Now I get a second chance to go to school and playball. The difference now is I had a chip on my shoulder because I didn't get a chance to play HS basketball. My Freshman year I Won CUNY Freshman of the year, First Team All-Conference, First Team All League,Team 2nd in scoring, 1st in steals and 1st in Assist was Co-Captain of the Team. Sophomore year I Won CUNY Player of the year First Team All-Conference, First Team All League,Led the Team Scoring 2nd In Steals 2nd 2nd in Assist. I had some Div. 1 interests at that time USC, Georgetown,  along with a host of Mid Majors Iona, St Francis, Stony Brook, just to name a few. Unfortunately things in My life would take a different course I actually got a young lady pregnant and thought the best thing to do was go into the workplace instead of continuing with my education to create a better situation for myself later on in life...Things actually worked out for the good it took some time but I have no regrets.

    

You've coached at Roosevelt for 17 Years and Hostos for 6, tell us about your coaching career and what you enjoy most about it?

I started out as the JV Basketball Coach at Roosevelt HS ( Yonkers) in 2003 Thanks to Athletic Director John Ventura & Head Basketball Coach Steve Simon for giving me the opportunity I worked as the JV Coach for 4 years then Ms Jade Sharpe (Principal) Asst Principal & Ed Dechent (Asst Principal) moved me up to coach the Varsity Basketball Team in 2007 and I have been coaching there ever since, I’ve had the opportunity to coach, teach and work with some really good kids, really good teams and work alongside some really good people. I am The Associate Coach at Hostos Community College and have been on staff for 5 years where we have some of the best young ball players and Coaching Staff that works so hard for each other, themselves and the program. This past Fall / Winter session we had a tremendous run in Div. III Community College Basketball. The Team Won, The CUNY Championship, The Regional Championship, Cuny and Regional DisrCoach of the Year and Played for a National Championship, Korey Williams (CUNY-All-Star & RegionXV Player of the Year) & Reggie Quesada (Rookie of The Year & National Tournament !st Team). 

You started the NYC Basketball Commission which brings together all of the tournament directors. What are you looking to accomplish with that? 

The NYC Basketball Commission was started during this pandemic so all NYC Summer Basketball Tournament Directors can collectively put on for the city and demonstrate unity in the NYC community through basketball and our event platforms. This platform is designed so Tournament Directors can speak about all things related to summer basketball tournaments and how to deal, relate or repair them.

NYC has over 35 Summer Basketball Tournaments throughout the 5 boroughs where thousands of kids participate during the summer all over the city, as tournament directors it's our responsibility to make sure they have a safe, friendly, competitive playing environment.