Andrew Parker has spent a lot of time on the courts that hosted the Pride of the Northside four-on-four basketball tournament this weekend in north Edmonton.
“Basketball shaped my life and everything I do,” said the former University of Alberta Golden Bear.
Parker, now a basketball coach at MacEwan University, started the tournament six years ago.
The tournament, played on the outdoor courts at Londonderry Junior High School in north Edmonton, has grown into one of the community’s most popular events.
Mayor Don Iveson attended this year's event, even volunteering himself as a human pylon for the dunk competition.
Parker is hoping that basketball will help the young people in his neighbourhood stay out of trouble — just like it helped him.
“I grew up in these street ball courts and I didn’t know where I was going to be,” Parker said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to graduate from high school.
“Life can be hard and I wanted to give them something they can appreciate and call their own,” Parker said. “So why not play the game and inspire the game and have an incredible tournament for these kids because they love it? That’s why I did it.”
Mursal Mohamud started playing with Parker — a bit of a celebrity in the local basketball community — when he was in grade 10. He says he’s already learned some valuable lessons from his mentor.
“It definitely made me want to go to school more,” Mohamud said. “It made me learn how hard work can pay off a lot.”
Mohamud is now an honour student and hopes to one day be a coach like Parker.
Parker, meanwhile, has no plans of leaving the area he calls home anytime soon.
“I am not going to move until we improve, until we take care of everything that needs to be done in north Edmonton,” he said. “I am going to stay here. All the teachers over at Lessard and Londonderry, we are going to try to continue to impact these kids’ lives.”