---- — DANVILLE — The basketball courts at Garfield Park on the city’s east side will be a bit less busy this Saturday.
The summer basketball league put together by Nathan “Bobo” Smalls and the Rev. Frank McCullough ended its season last Saturday with a picnic for the 300 or so players.
“We had a good year,” Smalls said, noting the program finished its fifth year. “It was our best year.”
Smalls said cooperation from city officials — especially the police department — Danville Township officials, area businesses and local pastors was key to the success.
“The Danville Police Department did a fantastic job,” Smalls said. “They came out every night we played.
“There are positive things going on in Danville. “People in Danville should know what’s going on.”
Smalls said the league was not limited to young people.
“The league was built around anyone who wanted to come out for recreation or so they could sit around and talk and get to know one another,” Smalls said.
He said players were young and old, men and women and from diverse racial and ethic groups.
Smalls said organizers were especially proud that the league recorded no fights this summer.
“We had a couple of gangs here in Danville with guys who showed up,” he said. “We kind of broke up (that rivalry). They all just wanted to play basketball. They all had to be in Garfield Park at the same time to do that. We had a good year.”
Smalls said the city’s Steve Lang, Doug Ahrens, Director of Public Safety Larry Thomason and Mayor Scott Eisenhauer deserve credit for giving the league a chance. He also noted assistance from Danville Township, First Midwest Bank and pastors who would show up on Saturdays with donations of snacks for the players.
Smalls said organizers plan to be back next summer.
Saturday’s picnic was sponsored by the city and drinks were provided by the local Pepsi distributor.
“We just want to teach them to love one another and live together,” Smalls said.
“We want people to see they don’t always have to read something bad about our kids. We’re proud of that.”