On-court defense helps stop crime

Published 9:35 pm Friday, May 12, 2017

The Suffolk Police Department met students on their own court on Friday.

John F. Kennedy Middle School eighth-grade basketball player Tyshawn Allen, 14, goes up for a shot in the Crime Stoppers basketball game on Friday.

John F. Kennedy Middle School held a Crime Stoppers basketball game in the school gymnasium. Tickets were $2 and raised money for the Crime Line and the school.

John F. Kennedy special education teacher Shanna Teachey and school resource officer Aaron Smith organized their first joint basketball game to build better relationships between Smith’s fellow officers and Teachey’s students.

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“We want to do something different to get the officers involved and bring our community together,” Teachey said.

Nine John F. Kennedy basketball players in the seventh and eighth grade faced off against Suffolk police officers and volunteers in front of a raucous crowd. The school sold 258 tickets for the event to raise $516 total.

“I was expecting a good turnout, but I wasn’t expecting something that big,” Teachey said.

Students, faculty and families cheered on the players through 25 minutes of play. The John F. Kennedy Wolverines held a 13-12 lead over their full-grown rivals after the first 10 minutes before the adults took the lead.

“They’re hardworking with good sportsmanship, and just true lovers of the game,” said LaCleder Odom, seventh-grade math teacher and the seventh- and eighth-grade boys’ basketball coach.

The older squad won the game 34-22, but the Wolverines never let up.

“They played a good game,” said Sgt. Andre Sparks, supervisor for Suffolk school resource officers.

After the game, Sparks gathered both teams in a big group huddle. He talked about the three important B’s he always stresses to young players that want to succeed: books, behavior and ball skills.

Books and behavior always come first.

“They’ve got have the right behavior in the community and not get into trouble,” Sparks said.

Crime Stoppers is a city-wide school club that allows students to report criminal activity in their school or community safely.

“We try to utilize it to get ahead of possible incidents within the schools,” Smith said.

Teachey said it’s about bridging the gap between students and officers, plus teachers. It’s about making them feel comfortable enough to raise their concerns with adults.

“I feel honored that there are students that are comfortable enough to come and talk to diffuse situations before they escalate into something unnecessary,” she said.

She and Smith are interested in organizing another game between officers and the Wolverines next year. Odom said her team will be ready, and that competition like that keeps her athletes on the right path.

“The game means a lot to them, and that’s how we keep them focused,” she said.

Tyshawn Allen, a 14-year-old eighth-grader and Wolverines player, was one of the top scorers for the afternoon. His drives to the basket and three-point shooting made an impression on the officers in the gym.

“He’s got a lot of potential,” Sparks said. “He held his own.”

Allen plans to practice good behavior off the court as he keeps practicing on the court with his friends. He said the Friday game was good for his ongoing development.

“It helped me get better,” he said.