The Trench League is a summer basketball league in Clarksville, TN

Chris Moses created the Trench League to protect the young men of Clarksville from tragedies like this.

Shelter, if only for a few hours, some of its participants from the realities of life in the city’s underprivileged neighborhoods. To show that teenagers in Lincoln Holmes, Summit Heights, Greenwood, New Providence and other areas can co-exist.

To give them all a reason to reject quick money and bad decisions, instead focusing on their passion for basketball.

Moses’ grassroots efforts have been supported by local businessmen, as well as friends and acquaintances who still lead the streets, but want others to succeed where they have faltered. The league enjoyed three weeks of Thursday afternoon games on dilapidated outdoor basketball courts at Dixon Park.

Then, on the morning of June 27, Moïse woke up to dozens of text messages and missed calls. Summit Heights volunteer coach DaShawn Kelly was killed overnight.

Out of respect, Moses postponed the league until after Kelly’s return serve and related events. He also decided to leave Dixon Park, which is about two blocks from the site of Kelly’s early morning murder in the 900 block of College Street. Moses, a basketball coach and father of a 9-year-old who often accompanies him to Trench League games, no longer feels comfortable inviting families into space.

Moses wants the games to continue, but financially strapped, struggles to find a new site in Clarksville.

“I just hope someone in the city finds the courage in their hearts to come behind us and help us,” he said. “Because we need their help.”

Honoring a friend through basketball: Marcus ‘Mook Wayne’ Grinstead

Moses envisioned the Trench League, an outdoor basketball league, as a space created for success, allowing local talent to put on a show for the city. Success, however, doesn’t always mean smooth sailing. So Moses wanted the participants to accept the uncomfortable, the courage.

Hence the trenches.

It’s bigger than basketball.

Of course, you need to be able to score baskets and come back on defense to thrive in the league. But mentors are using the ability of sports to help some teenagers escape unforgiving situations to create better young men and women. After all, the same lessons taught in the field can help them throughout their lives.

Patience. Preperation. Consistency.

Do what you mean, and mean what you say.

Moïse, with the help of dozens of mentors and peers, did everything to honor a friend.

Marcus “Mook Wayne” Grinstead, who died last December, was an influential basketball player in Clarksville, Moses said.

“He was always positive, pushing me to play ball and he helped me, making sure I had change in my pocket and not getting into some of the negative stuff that comes from just being a kid in downtown,” he said. .

Grinstead’s sister Lucresia Neal said her brother played for Northeast High in the 1990s and would have loved to be in the Trench League.

And he is.

“LLMW” (Long Live Mook Wayne) is placed on the front of every player’s uniform in the league, with a custom Chad Davis-branded design on the back: “Ain’t No Love”. The design features a green heart which represents kidney disease, the cause of Grinstead’s death.

The league includes local Clarksville players; others travel as far as Nashville and Bowling Green, Kentucky. In June, dozens of fans showed up to watch a fast-paced version of basketball in 90-degree weather, complete with music and live commentary from DJ Dre Wayne.

Julian Hatfield, a rising senior striker at Rossview High, is working on his game this summer playing in the Trench League. Last season, Hatfield averaged 8.2 points and two rebounds per game for the Hawks.

“I love how they got everyone off the streets to do good for the community and it definitely helps me with my game and helps me with things I want to work on that I don’t. can’t necessarily do in a (high school) game,” Hatfield said.

Leon Rorie, a parent who attended one of the early games, enjoyed the atmosphere.

“Everyone has been very relaxed and there is no animosity even though different areas are represented,” Rorie said.

The Leaf-Chronicle interviewed Hatfield and Rorie before Kelly’s murder.

Time flies when you walk around

Thirteen years ago, Damarius Smith would have been one of the New Providence area teenagers playing in the Trench League.

But this summer, he is a volunteer coach, sharing the duties of the league’s New Providence team with Guy Stanford Jr., co-owner and CEO of Clarksville’s Fat Shack.

Smith watched Kenwood High and then launched his college career at Lipscomb. He also played at Vincennes Junior College in Indiana before joining Austin Peay State University for his final two seasons of college basketball.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of time has passed since I was this little kid,” Smith, 30, said. “Just to mentor the younger generation, we’re not too far (older) than them, so it’s easy to relate to them. Makes it feel like a family; like you’re mentoring a brother, sister or cousin.

“It’s a feeling of usefulness. It’s like you’re doing something you’re designed to do.

“Because these prison cells are filling up every day.”

Moses worries about the impact of Kelly’s death on his teenage participants, many of whom knew Kelly.

Shock. Numbness. Depression, isolation and rage.

“It bothers me, it scares me because I know with every reaction comes a reaction,” Moses said from a corner seat at Amazin Stylez Barbershop, opposite Dixon Park.

“I pray for all the positive things that we do, the resources that we give to these children. We can be reactive, but create in a positive way. Because these prison cells are filling up every day.

When Smith learned of Kelly’s death, he and Stanford sent a group text to the New Providence players.

Keep living with a purpose.

Thank God. And dream big.

Life is precious.

You have to wake up every day in full attack. Make every day count.

Stay inspired. Stay motivated. And always, stay safe.

Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, who participated in the Trench League as a father supporting his son, Lance, said he thought it was a good concept.

“What I’ve seen is kids from all parts of the community coming together to play basketball in an organized setting,” Hodges said. “I’ve seen volunteers who have created a league to give children the opportunity to play with each other; many of them live on different sides of town and would probably never have the chance to play ball with each other, but I had a chance thanks to that league.

“I think they did a really good job with the league. It was organised. I was never worried about Lance being there and playing ball. I liked going there to watch him player.”

Story idea? Topical advice? Question about a story? Gary Estwick can be reached at 931-245-0282. He can also be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @garyestwick.

Notable Trench League participants

Lincoln HolmesAmetri Moss, KJ Crump

Greenwood: Jaheim Berry, Wesley Booth

New Providence; Messiah Hall, Julian Hatfield

Summit Heights: Quamond Lindsey

Peach Mill: Khalil Lewis

Hopkinsville: Alijah Watts, Dj Quarles, Jamarcus Burks

Lafayette Road: Trace Flanary, Kemari McIntosh, Gavin Grubbs

Exit 1: James Williams

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