Getting ready for summer

Walking in the streets of lower Manhattan a day after Christmas there were many kids and even adults waiting their turn to get onto the West Fourth Street public basketball courts. Some of them found time to their liking and waited for their turn to go onto the very popular location. And the weather cooperated as it was rather sunny and warm. A workout outdoors was fine to many of the cagers instead of them finding a inside gym.

The ones who use these courts need not have to live in the area to keep in shape for the spring-summer West Fourth Street League. Most of the competitors who work out on these courts do not compete on their high school or college teams. If they do so they could violate their regulations and rules, such as getting hurt and not to be able to play anymore.

This park is also known for handball, as well as basketball.

Take Lester Narcisse, for example, he attended St. Mary’s College High School in St. Lucia, where he tried to compete in all sports, including cricket and soccer. Narcisse, now 43 years, is still going strong competing in three on three or five against five pick up games.

Actually, Lester was practicing on the West 4th Street courts to get more accustomed to them for he competes in a summer men’s open league. At one time he played and lived in Sweden.

“We played in men’s leagues all during the summer at these courts over past years,” he recalled. “Now we’re getting ready for it again. This (location) is the place to play. I like playing here. I lived in Manhattan for many years and then moved to Jersey City.”

Narcisse said that he has been playing basketball for his whole life. After he lived in the Caribbeans for his first 15 years, he and his family moved to New York. He is an accountant by profession.

“My goal in basketball is to enjoy the game (sport),” he added. “I have a good time and have fun.”

Over the years he played with and against such professional players as Joquaim Noah in Sweden, Swish Parker and Kevin Durrant.

“Noah is the best player I played with in Sweden,” he went on. “He played everywhere.”

Another player who worked out at the West 4th Street playground was Matt who wanted to remain anonymous.

“These courts and park are beautiful, and I just wanted to see them,” Matt said.

Another teenager who wanted to see the courts also wanted to remain anonymous.

This teenager attends Millenium High School, a public one, located on Broad Street, and that’s near the courts.

“I live in the neighborhood but I play in a different league,” the 16-year-old high school student said. “I play in the Alfred E. Smith Recreation League in downtown Manhattan. I’m working on my three-point shooting on these courts (which are better than a lot of them here in Manhattan). I play in an indoor league now and in AAU ball during the summer.”

Then there was Simeon Soffer who showed up but not to compete on the courts. Soffer is very familiar with the league and its history, which dates back to some 40 years. The summer program is conducted by Ken Graham.

“It’s a league that has a tournament in it,” Soffer said, adding, “such players as Mario Elie, Anthony Mason, Noah, and Smush Parker took part in the league.”

Unfortunately, there are no bleachers for spectators to watch some exciting games. Spectators for the most part stand behind the fence They are urged to bring their own chairs.

Recruiters and scouts are welcomed to the action during their ‘open period’ of the high schools and colleges and professional field. and abide by rules and regulations, which usually are enforced.

More from Around NYC