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A hoop program just for the kids

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When Artie Cox was searching for a name for his organization, the Astoria resident wanted more than just a catchy acronym to describe some of its basketball teams. He wanted the name to truly embody his plan to help kids beyond the basketball courts.

In the title S.O.N.D.A.Y. (Save Our Neighborhoods, Develop America’s Youth), Cox got both.

“The value system in today’s communities is missing,” said Cox, who founded the organization in February. “I want to be able to try and mold a better environment for kids, to teach them not only to be great basketball players, but teach them to be great students and good people too.”

Cox is no stranger to the youth basketball circuit. He has been coaching junior varsity basketball in the Catholic High School Athletic Association, first for Monsignor McClancy and for the last eight years at Christ the King. He is also the assistant varsity coach at Christ the King and headed the B/Q Express summer basketball team, coaching the likes of Lamar Odom, Erick Barkley, Ron Artest and Omar Cook.

“I’ve been trying to put this together for a year or so,” Cox said. “It’s never a problem getting the kids to play. I just didn’t realize how much paper work was involved.”

One of the first steps for Cox was to build a solid support staff to help his burgeoning program and one of the first phone calls he made was to fellow Queens resident Doug Jones.

For the better part of a decade, Jones and Cox have been on opposite ends of the summer basketball courts around the city. Jones, who grew up playing with former NBA standout Vern Flemming in Queensbridge, led the powerful Wolfpack program, coaching William “Smoosh” Parker, Taliek Brown, Artest, Antawn Dobie and JaJa Bey.

“We’ve been around each other, we both had a lot of players and we both had a mutual respect for each other,” Jones said. “We have a lot in common. The first thing is that we both have a passion for the game. I never really realized how deep Artie was in this game. In this short period of time, I’ve learned so much from him.”

For Jones, now living in Maspeth, coaching summer league basketball is way to reciprocate some of the help he received when he was a kid from Hank Carter, the president and CEO of Wheelchair Charities, an organization that helps wheelchair-bound patients at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island.

“I grew up in a good time in Queensbridge. I grew up in the 70s, which was an innocent time in music, culture. It was a great time. I had Hank Carter, he was my coach and he was always there for us,” Jones said. “There were some really positive people in Queensbridge, people who took time.”

And that leadership is what Cox and Jones both believe is missing in today’s society.

“Fifteen, 20 years ago you could go into any park in Queens and see all kids of games, whether it be CYO or YMCA,” said Cox, who also gets help from John Maser, summer basketball coaches Kevin White and Craig Keyes, as well as Holy Cross junior varsity coach Lloyd Desvigne. “But today, that same leadership that was there for us is missing.”

In just five months, the S.O.N.D.A.Y. Express has eight boys basketball teams and four girls teams, ranging in age from 8 to 18. While building a solid basketball program pleases Cox in the short-term, securing a building in Long Island City and developing alcohol and drug prevention programs, as well as forming GED and SAT classes.

“I think we’re doing great, but as is the case in anything, the strength of something is in its longevity,” Cox said. “We all love sports but we know there’s more to it than games and tournaments. We want to make them more successful in life. That’s the reason behind the name.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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