MILWAUKEE -- There have been basketball leagues in the past focused on getting young people off the streets -- especially during the summer. A new league started this year is doing just that -- while also teaching players some life skills.
"We're using sports as a tool to bring them in and incubate them with urban business leaders and urban business role models so that they can be influenced in a positive way," Nigel Harvey, Cream Skills Basketball Association founder said.
Created out of tragedy, the Cream Skills Basketball Association is free for Milwaukee teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17.
"It was initially influenced by my best friend being murdered. In 2008, he was murdered back in Pittsburgh. That's where I'm initially from and it kind of shook my heart. I was deeply hurt by that and it happened right after he was playing basketball with the neighborhood youth," Harvey said.
The tragedy has stayed with Harvey. He earned a degree in human services and has dedicated himself to working in the community with young people.
"What I did was put a little spin on the league. I made it a professional-style league, where as the staff, where owners of each team, we had a draft. We had a lottery and the youth -- they were very excited," Harvey said.
The league is made up of 10 teams -- and each is owned by an urban Milwaukee business.
"The players, they get to interact with the business owners because that's their team and they get to see them all the time. They mentor them basically. They're surrounded by mentors all the time," Harvey said.
Through this constant interaction, the mentors promote entrepreneurship, which Harvey sees as having a direct effect on the teens' view of their own community.
"We are really pushing that -- so the youth understands that when we have more entrepreneurs and more business owners, we have less crime in the inner city," Harvey said.
It all begins with what happens on the court for 16-year-old Jose Alvarado.
"The games have been pretty intense actually. It's not real easy. It's real competition," Alvarado said.
The games transfer to what can happen off the court -- for Alvarado and 16-year-old Jawun Leon-Guerrero.
"A couple weeks ago I learned how to manage my money more. One thing they have is 'pay yourself first,' which is like putting away like $20 to yourself or something like that. And if you have bills, taking care of that and just trying to set your money more," Leon-Guerrero said.
"We talk about how black lives matter and how us, as young men, we are exposed to an environment that's not really healthy to us and we should be exposed to more educational things," Alvarado said.
As these young people continue to add to their skill set, Harvey hopes to see the program grow as well.
"We had a few businesses reach out to us right after our season already started so I had to unfortunately turn them away. But we definitely look forward to next season because we plan to expand and get larger and to reach out and to one day make this a model and we can go to another city," Harvey said.
If you're a business or parent and you would like more information about the Cream Skills Basketball Association, you are invited to email: CreamSkills@gmail.com.
Donations to the program can be made via a GoFundMe site: CLICK HERE.