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Inside the North Philly basketball league for homeless men: ‘It helps me to realize who I really am’

This basketball game began with a bucket, right off the tipoff, and then a matching bucket, and another bucket. Finally, somebody missed.

Every Wednesday this summer, in a little gym just off a courtyard in the back of the historic Church of the Advocate at Diamond and Gratz Streets in North Philadelphia, there’s a men’s hoop league, the quality more or less the same as most any community league in Philadelphia.

Ian Murray, who officiates high school games in the winter, came in to referee the first week. He wasn’t sure what the quality would be. He was ready to let some things go.

“Some guy dunked on the layup line,” Murray said. “All bets were off.”

The surprise factor came because this Hoops for Hope League may be unique, in Philadelphia anyway. It’s the only one in the city specifically designed for homeless men. It’s shelter vs. shelter competition. You wouldn’t know any of that walking in, hearing a coach yell, “Kick the ball out, man.”

Read the entire column: “Inside the North Philly basketball league for homeless men: ‘It helps me to realize who I really am’