L.A. and Community Groups Start Midnight Basketball League in South L.A.

A new basketball league tipped off Tuesday night at South L.A.'s Rancho Cienega Sports Complex Gym. KPCC's Brian Watt says the league aims to give young men an alternative to gang activity.

Brian Watt: More than a hundred players have signed up for the 12 teams in the "Real Men Choose Peace" late night hoops league. They'll compete in the Rancho Cienega gym on Tuesday and Thursday nights for the next two months.

Councilman Herb Wesson: The key is, it's between 6 p.m. and midnight. Those are the times, generally, when trouble starts.

Watt: That's L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson. He says the City of Los Angeles is paying a group called Community Build to run the league and other programs. The coaches and some players come from gang-prevention groups like Venice 2000, which is sponsoring its own team.

Player Keyon Smith says night basketball leagues kept him away from the dangerous distractions of a tough neighborhood.

Keyon Smith: Gang activity. You know, it's drug dealing. It's police activity. It's a little bit of everything. So, as long as you don't have those worries, it's all good.

Watt: At age 27, Smith is now an apprentice carpenter. He hopes to help other young men can turn their lives around through basketball.