Asian Basketball League Keeps Kids Off Streets

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4th Grade Boys, 2009-2010 Team

One of the most notable summer basketball programs in San Francisco belongs to the Bay Area Asian Sports Dragons. Although this is an “Asian” basketball association, participants of the summer league are not required to be of Asian ancestry. Volunteers graciously donate their time to administer the program, while current players coach and referee the games.

The BAAS Dragons mission is simple – to develop young Asian boys and girls physically, psychologically and socially through their basketball program. Members and participants learn to become responsible individuals, accept others, as well as themselves, and learn to accept praise and constructive criticism all in a safe and positive environment. Parent participation is highly encouraged, emphasizing that the time invested in participation with their children will reap great rewards as the children grow and mature.

Elena Wong, one of the current executive advisory members, was present for the 3rd through 5th grade boys’ championship game on Aug. 4,  at Holy Name gym in the Sunset district. When asked why she works tirelessly to support the Dragons’ program, she simply stated that the effort is to provide an opportunity where there was none before – a chance for Asian children to develop. Elena’s own kids went through the Dragons program. For the past two years, the Dragons ran basketball programs that stressed fundamentals for second-graders.

“The Dragons program keeps the kids busy and off the streets,” says Wong. “The program is also family-oriented, where parents are encouraged to support the kids and the program, as well as participate.”

Elena’s passion is fueled by the legacy of those before her: her uncle was the late Willie “Woo Woo” Wong, one of the most talented Asian Americans to play high school and collegiate level basketball. Willie’s moniker was “USF’s little big man,” and his skills carried him and his teammates to the National Invitation Tournament, where he was the first Asian American to play at Madison Square Garden.

Elena’s aunt, Helen Wong Lum, was also a standout basketball player and tennis player who rose to become a top-ranked amateur tennis star. From very poor and humble beginnings, their tenacity and desire to overcome helped them both to become legends in both the Asian and sports communities.

The recent signing of Jeremy Lin to the NBA’s Golden State Warrior’s roster is definitely a highlight in the Asian and Asian American community. Where there was little opportunity in the past for Asians to penetrate professional basketball here in the United States, Jeremy Lin provides greater hope for Asian American generations to come. There is more hope for aspiring children to build upon the foundation laid by those basketball stars from the past.

Although most of the kids on the court may not sign with the NBA or WNBA, the key point is that each and every Asian boy and girl can develop and become the best they can be in life, which is fundamental for the Dragons.   As Elena stated, “The Dragons program is not about winning. The program is about the development of the kids.”

For more information on the Bay Area Asian Sports Dragons, go to baasdragons.org.

To watch footage from a recent summer game, visit: BAAS Dragons Basketball Team – Summer Match

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