Touring several years ago with the Harlem Superstars, an entertainment basketball troupe akin to the Harlem Globetrotters, Avery Stevenson Jr. saw firsthand streetball meccas like New York Citys Rucker Park.
When the former University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma shooting guard came home in 2012, he wanted to build Oklahoma Citys streetball culture and showcase undiscovered local players in the process.
Stevenson has done that and more as OKC plays host on Saturday to the Red Bull Reign 3-on-3 basketball tournament at Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.s Community Basketball Court, 412 W. Reno Ave., where 16 local teams battle for a spot in the Red Bull Reign finals Aug. 22 at Chicagos Seward Park.
Its a huge deal, said Stevenson, 31, who runs The Cage, a basketball league that is the centerpiece of OKCs streetball movement.
Red Bull Reign began in 2014 in Chicago, and this year, seven local qualifiers will be in Houston; Memphis, Tennessee; Detroit; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Chicago and OKC. Local champs compete in the finals for a spot in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3x3 North American World Tour.
Registration is free and opens at 9 a.m. Saturday. The competition begins at 10 a.m. The qualifier is open to amateurs and pros alike, but players must be at least 18 years old to participate. Visit redbull.com/reign for more information.
The Cage was born in 2012 when Stevenson found the new downtown community basketball court while attending Festival of the Arts. He had nurtured relationships with Red Bull staffers while competing in Red Bulls King of the Rock 1-on-1 basketball tournament, and he represented Oklahoma City from 2011 to 2013 in the world championships played at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco.
Red Bull agreed to sponsor The Cage, and with Stevenson at the helm, the league grew from three teams its first year to eight last year, collecting sponsors along the way.
Although known for football, the states colleges and universities have produced dozens of NBA draft picks throughout the years, Stevenson said.
Michael McCowan, a six-foot-eight former Capitol Hill High School center who played collegiately at the University of New Mexico and the University of West Georgia, said streetball has long been a part of the Oklahoma basketball machine.
People have always played streetball here, said McCowan, 32, who won three King of the Rock local qualifiers and twice reached the final four in the world championships. For a lot of people, streetball is all they play. You dont need much [more than] a court and a ball.
At The Cage, spectators are treated to giveaways and peruse offerings from food trucks. DJs play positive hip-hop music and announce action, and Stevenson generates buzz on social media. As the streetball movement has grown, The Cage has worked with local civic groups to provide youth clinics.
Its a good thing, and its great for our community that people know they have somewhere to go, he said.
Streetball has grown since the arrival of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and players like Perry Jones III, Steven Adams and former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson have shown up at the downtown court, stirring up excitement.
We kind of want to be like what Rucker Park is to the New York Knicks, he said.
Print headline: Ball control, Quickly becoming a streetball hotbed, downtown hosts the Red Bull Reign 3-on-3 basketball tournament.