Coach Wallace Moore has the hardware to back up his claim that he is the King of LA. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Basketball coach Wallace Moore is on top of the world right now.
“They call me the King of LA right now,” a smiling Moore said. “I haven’t lost since ’07. It’s like 24 teams down to the last one. Picture March Madness. Picture standing room only in the gym, guys coming from all over just to win. I’ve just been really blessed three years in a row.”
Moore has coached in the Say No Classic since 1995, where he has won six titles, including the last three.
Last year he was invited to coach at the Drew League.
“They said ‘you can’t come here and win. This is the pros, this ain’t college! You done won all those championships over there man,’” Moore said.
It was just wishful thinking from the opposing coaches, because Moore won the Drew League title his very first year coaching. Now he holds both trophies from the Say No Classic and the Drew Leagues.
Alvin Willis established the Drew League in 1973 with six teams. Willis believed this league could be a place for young men and women of South Central Los Angeles to learn life lessons through basketball. The Drew League’s goal was to help young people form meaningful relationships on the court that would spill over into the neighborhood, as well as build an institution that would bring top local high school, college, and pro players back to the community.
Today the league matches up 20 “invitation-only” teams at Charles Drew Junior High School to battle it out on the hardwood.
Paul Pierce, Trevor Ariza, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, Baron Davis, Andre Miller, and Nick Young have all participated in the Drew League.
Last week at the Drew League, Lakers Ron Artest and Steve Blake, as well as the rappers the Game and Flavor Flav were in attendance.
The Say No Classic, which is played at Trade Tech Community College, is similar to the Drew League.
Founded in 1972, the Say No Classic basketball (SNC) mentorship program is recognized as one of the premier organizations to host a NCAA sanctioned summer league in the country. Every year, the SNC showcases a new collection of NCAA athletes before they complete their education and make the decision to enter the career of their choice, this includes a possible career in the NBA or the numerous professional basketball league in existence throughout the world. Each year at least one participant of the summer league has graduated to professional basketball in the NBA. In 2009 alone, eight NBA first round picks came from the Say No Classic league: Darren Collison, Austin Daye, Demar DeRozan, James Harden, Brandon Jennings, and Taj Gibson.
Aaron Affalo, Russell Westbrook, Paul Pierce, Trevor Ariza, Tayshaun Prince, Darren Collison, and Gilbert Arenas have also played in the classic.
In recent years Moore has coached both Derek Williams, who attends Arizona and is projected to be the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and Jordan Hamilton, who will also be a first round pick in this year’s draft.
Moore has coached some very talented players, but there has been a high turnover rate on his championship teams. He does not have very many returning players from year to year.
Moore is very competitive and enjoys winning, but that is not the only reason why he is coaching.
“It’s a community thing,” Moore said. “It’s not just guys playing basketball. It’s guys getting their lives turned around. Kids who had been on probation or parole, they get an opportunity to play in the games against pro guys. You have guys who came up through broken families, and basketball is their passion. Now all of a sudden they’re in college, thanks to the Drew League and Say No. You have guys who are being seen by scouts. It’s incredible.”
Moore, who attended Crenshaw and Jefferson High Schools, sees these games as a great benefit to the community. That keeps him coming back. That, and the thirst to win more titles.
For more information and schedules for the Say No Classic and The Drew Leagues, visit their websites at www.saynoclassic.com and www.drewleague.com.
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