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North Lawndale is home to residents that have been around for generations. Antoine Brewer grew up in the community and dreamed of playing in the NBA. As a youth, he developed faith and a love for learning through his participation with the Young Men’s Educational Network (YMEN). After graduating from college, Brewer started a program within the community to offer youth something to inspire them.
Basketball and his faith began to guide him through childhood and are still part of his life today. He graduated from Trinity Christian College in 2017 with the idea of becoming an urban missionary. It weighed heavily on Brewer’s mind, but he didn’t know where to start.
Shortly after graduation, he founded Saved By The Ball (SBB), a faith-based basketball program that incorporates faith by teaching basketball fundamentals. The program aims to instill hope and character in high school students. In addition, SBB offers youth a safe space to navigate emotions through the game of basketball. Over 60 students have been part of SBB since 2017.
Currently, there are 10 young men in the program. Brewer stated, “For the summer, as of now that is our [maximum] capacity. We want nothing but the best for our youth and I tend to bring the best out of them. We downsized the numbers for the program this year so we can create a bigger impact with the students.”
YMEN Connections and SBB Alumni
Brewer touched on being a YMEN alumni, and how many students have been in both programs. “Majority of them played basketball inside of YMEN [boys and girls] have been a part of SBB. The development of character corresponds with both programs. I simply help them reach their full potential, not just as athletes but as the generation of tomorrow,” he explained.
“Some of them have [gone] to college; we still communicate with them. Not all of them continued their basketball dreams but they have developed a deeper love for their community and their character has matured since their younger days.”
YMEN has been in the community of North Lawndale for over 20 years. Some of the staff at YMEN today are alumni of the organization: Brewer, Tommy Patrick, and Willie Chatman.
“As a person it made me appreciate my teammates more. When I first joined, I was an arrogant type of player and blamed my team when things didn’t go as planned. Coach T (Brewer) instilled patience in me. He found ways to break down the principles that were easy to catch on to. Coach focused on us and made sure he understood each of us together as a team and as an individual. Coming to SBB allowed me to actually take on the point guard role, not just on the court but also in life,” said Elijah Washington, an alum of both organizations.
Brewer is now the executive director of the organization. However, he still is active in the role of head coach. He helps the players develop a better sense of morals: integrity, accountability, resilience, and discipline. As a result, the youth see how their character has improved and comment on the program’s help to change how they see their lives.
The SBB team will participate in this summer’s West Haven Basketball League at Crane High School. The league begins on June 20, and some players will also be in a tournament in Kewanee. Brewer’s approach to the organization has been different than in previous years. The team this summer consists of Chatman, Patrick, and Kevin Crockwell as Brewer’s assistant coaches.
Contact Antione Brewer for more information about joining the Saved By The Ball team. Remember, there is still work to be done in life and on the court.
Written by Semetrius Holmes
Edited by Sheena Robertson
Interview: Antione Brewer; June 8, 2022
Images Courtesy of Antoine Brewer – Used With Permission