Brooklyn and Bronx players square off in handball tournament

Gravesend’s Matchpoint NYC was the setting on Saturday, January 24 as black-clad Brooklyn athletes led by Borough President Eric Adams faced red-clad Bronx athletes led by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in the Johnny Ray Memorial Pro Wall Ball Tournament IV presented by the United States Wall Ball Association (USWA).

The annual tournament is dedicated to the deceased brother of Jasmine Ray, USWA founder and president. Handball was a tradition they shared. The “Bronx vs. Brooklyn” dynamic stemmed from Facebook debates between players as to which borough played better handball.

The USWA, founded in 2010, is a not-for-profit organization that utilizes Wall Ball to inspire young people in underserved metropolitan area communities to stay in school, embrace healthy lifestyles and pursue alternatives to drug use and violent behavior.

“These guys are learning how to channel their anger and their frustrations, so that’s really what this is about,” said Ray. “It’s getting people to just become a person of substance and character.”

Ray said that handball is the city’s most accessible sport, with over 2,000 free courts available.

“A lot of these kids who live in lower-income communities,” said Ray, “they can’t afford a $23 basketball, so what do they do? They go down the block, pick up a $1 ball and they got a game.”

The tournament generally boasts a turnout of 800 people. This year, snowy weather limited it to approximately 400.

“I think that it goes a long way in bringing the community together to have the Bronx and Brooklyn go at it in a friendly competition,” said Diaz. “It promotes health, it promotes discipline, community, unity in just a wonderful way and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Earl Dubois, Brooklyn team member, considered it a pleasure to play for his borough.

“To represent Brooklyn is a big thing,” said Dubois. “I would do it any day at any time. I don’t get to play as often as I’d like to, I got work and school both full-time, but when I do get to go out on the court and represent my borough, I love to give it my all.”


BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Phots by Arthur de Gaeta
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Phot0 by Arthur de Gaeta

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