"We had a bunch of kids sitting around, and a lot of them knew me from playing at Bate-Wood (Homes)," Berry said. "I said, 'If I get a chance to, I'm going to do something for you.'"
Berry said the players for the free program have come from not only Danville, but also Harrodsburg and Garrard County.
"We've already got 25 kids lined up that are strong and want to do it every day, even though some have football conditioning," he said.
The league is open to boys and girls ages 12-17. The first edition of the league lasts three weeks. In addition to the games and practices, Berry is lining up speakers.
Berry's plan calls for practices and games each Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. All practices and games take place at Bate-Wood Homes basketball courts on South Second Street and the courts at the Salvation Army on Fourth Street. The first games are this Saturday.
On Tuesdays, practices run from 3-5 p.m., with games from 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays and 3-5 p.m. Saturdays. The games will be shown on public access television (Adelphia cable channel 6).
"We also have a couple of 18-year-olds who are serious about (playing) college basketball," Berry said. "We're trying to develop the basic skills for these kids, so that when they get in high school, they won't have to sit the bench. We're trying to teach them the basics like screening and cutting and shooting the ball with more confidence. And we're trying to build a better rapport with the kids.
"And we've got some good kids. We've got some Danville kids, a couple from Harrodsburg and Garrard County."
And the local kids who showed up to Wednesday's first practice session, which was moved to the Salvation Army after rain moved in, say they are glad there is something for them to do this summer.
"We don't get a chance to play that much. Usually we're just sitting at home playing PlayStation. This gives us a chance to play," said 13-year-old Tevin Raines, who plans on getting more of his friends to join in.
"I think it's great we get a chance to play during the summer," said Jacody Taylor, 14, who added it's hard to just get a pick-up game going. "This makes it easier."
Several former Danville players helping
Berry has lined up former Danville players Larry Bartleson, Branden Baker, Buddy Trumbo, Anthony Letcher, Antoine Yocum, Mario Berry and DeMarco Prewitt as team coaches. Kelvin Turner will referee the games. Teams will be set up so there will be kids from each age group on every team so the younger players will get a chance to play with and against older competition.
"Hopefully, we'll have some good games," he said.
And maybe teach the kids something more than a good jumper.
At the end of the third week, there will be the usual 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 tournaments, and awards will be handed out for the most valuable player and top scorer. But a $500 scholarship also will be awarded to a senior who will maintain a 3.0 grade-point average for the following school year.
"We're hoping we can drive into these kids that they have to stay up with their academics before they ever touch the field or the court," Berry said.
Berry knows this was a spur-of-the-moment idea, but he hopes to expand the league next year.
"I had about two weeks of preparation, this really was last second," he said. "I'm working on for next year investing in an AAU team and trying to get a 15, 16- and 17-year-old team travel and play against some top-notch competition," he said. "We'll try and put something together that's fun for them and hopefully they'll learn from it. I'm hoping next year to have a little more success."
Berry would like to be able to get an adult league together.
The league is free, but Berry is accepting sponsors. For $25, a sponsor will get a spot on the banner that will hang at the games, Berry said. For $50, sponsors get a spot on the banner and a TV spot during the public access replay of the games.
While Berry is helping area players live out there hoops dreams, he's trying to realize one of his own.
Berry, who played for two years at Berea College and was part of the school's NAIA Division II Final Four run as a freshman, is attempting to hook up with an American Basketball Association team.
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"I went to Charlotte last year and got invited back for a second tryout. I'm looking for a tryout with Chicago this summer, and hopefully I'll get a good look," he said.
Berry also is hitting the books, trying to finish his degree in physical education.
"I play ball and I want to be successful, but it's hard for me now. I took two years off, and it really has set me back as far as getting looks," he said. "I'm really focused on my academics, and that's what I've done the last two years. That's more exciting than even getting on the floor.
"And that's one thing I want to teach the kids. If I can teach them about the mistakes I've made growing up, I'd be happy and feel my job was done."
For information on the league or becoming a sponsor, call Berry at (859) 333-4063.