A colorful array of blue, green, yellow and orange danced across the court.
In the gym of Apollo High School on Saturday, six teams donned shirts of bold color to participate in a basketball tournament hosted by the St. Cloud Somali Youth Organization. Prior to the game, individual team members mingled with a free-shoot warmup, creating a vibrant scene.
Gradually the colors separated as tipoff drew near. The buzzer blared. A whistle blew. The gamse began.
“We want to show the positive traits of our kids,” SCSYO spokesperson Saed Haji said. “We want our kids to become a part of the larger, growing community. Events like this can do that.”
Watching intently on the sidelines was 18-year-old Apollo High School senior Khalid Mohamud. Clad in yellow, his team — Young Hoopers — was waiting for its match in the second round. He says the neighborhood team’s members have played together for years.
“We’ve been practicing with each other for awhile,” he said. “We’ve been getting in shape, and we hope to take the W today.”
Saturday’s game was a good warmup for Mohamud. After the event, he says he’ll board a bus bound for Illinois to showcase his skills during a college scouting event Sunday at Hoop Mountain Midwest — a youth basketball organization. He says the SCSYO helped him plan the trip.
“If they like me, there’s a chance I could get a scholarship,” he said.
In the bleachers, Hassan Abdi and The Dream Team chatted, waiting for their match. Abdi has been involved with SCSYO for two years and has participated in many of the group’s sports activities. He said the organization is a good influence on Somali youth.
“It helps all the kids participate in different activities,” he said. “I’d like to stay with the organization to help younger kids as they grow. I’d like to be a leader to them one day.”
Like Mohamud, Abdi will graduate this year and said he wants to stay in the area to continue his education. He said he plans to study law enforcement.
“I’d like to stick around here. My family is here,” he said.
The SCSYO has organized 3-on-3 basketball tournaments in the past, but organizers said they wanted to expand the event into something greater. In addition to sports, several community events are scheduled for later this year including a cultural festival and neighborhood cleanup.
“We want to focus on the youth and help them in any way we can,” SCSYO coordinator Mohamed Mohamud said. “The more we get involved with the kids, the more they feel comfortable with us and share their needs.”