MILWAUKEE — With the WIAA Boy's and Girl's Basketball State Championships taking place, it seems like high school basketball has survived the pandemic.
That is until you remind yourself that there are entire districts, like Milwaukee Public Schools, that have yet to participate in any sporting activity since March of 2020.
"Who is going to help our young men and women as it relates to high school students, get on the court?" asked Lance Pitts, President of NPBA.
Pitts not only asked this question but found a way to answer the call as well. Assembling his version of the "Dream Team," Pitts and others created 'City on the Floor.'
"City on the Floor is for high school boys and girls who could not have a season because it was derailed by COVID-19," says Pitts.
Like Shani Scruggs' daughter, Sidney, who despite being one of the more recognized names, still needs every shot she can take.
"I wanted to play along with my peers because this was the year to get recruited. It just felt like I didn't get the same opportunities that the suburban schools did," says Sidney Scruggs, a junior player at Milwaukee Riverside.
"Every day that they step on the court, which is a day she trains, she loses ground to other athletes. You also have the layers of colleges which can look, they can call, they can see, but if we have nothing to offer in real-time like film and highlights, it becomes a big difference," says Shani, Sidney's mother and City on the Floor organizer.
Knowing exactly what's on the line for these athletes, Pitts has made sure teams will be able to maximize 10 weeks of play.
"I've had the chance to talk to some college coaches and they have said 'we will be in attendance, can you make sure the games are streamed?' Even after the season, if you want to bring them down for tours of certain colleges in the Wisconsin and Illinois area, they were excited about that. That's what it's all about," says Pitts.
By reuniting friends on the court, and offering up some bragging rights, a glimpse of normalcy will return for these athletes.
"I'm excited because I've been waiting so long to play. I've been waiting. I'm so excited to play with my team from school because you know we're the best in the city and all," says Sidney.
City on the Floor will also provide coaches like Branden Joseph an outlet to create change.
"What people probably don't understand is how valuable touchpoints are. Coaching is just a microphone, you have the microphone at that time but what you do with that microphone and what you can do with that microphone as far as instilling positive vibrations in our kids goes beyond basketball," says Joseph, coach in the MPS system.
"What is also an inspiration to see, is when we just had scrimmages. To see their faces, the kids' faces, you had some that were smiling and some that honestly broke down in tears. They were hurting," says Shani.
"We are going to have people, boys, and girls, who some may be NBA or overseas players. Some may be accountants or work in the corporate field but they are going to come back and talk to the kids. They are going to say 'we care about you and appreciate you' like the same people who thought of City on the Floor," says Branden.
Learn more about City On The Floor League for Boys & Girls on their Facebook page here.