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Queens Day tourney grows

Haron Hargrave is just getting used to the changes himself.

Five years ago, the former Campus Magnet star helped begin Queens Day, a one-day streetball tournament at Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica. Last year, it expanded to two days and this summer it will be a week’s worth of festivities from Aug. 15 to Aug. 21 in conjunction with the Southern Queens Park Association’s 35th Anniversary.

To Hargrave, it’s still Queens Day, sometimes forgetting to substitute the word “week” in its place.

“I got to start saying it correctly, man,” he said. “I’ve been saying ‘Queens Day.’”

Hargrave, nicknamed H2O on the streetball circuit, and co-founder David Bucknor said when they first thought of the idea they wanted it to be more than a basketball event, but stuck with their niche to get things off the ground. The new expanded version will focus on getting different aspects of the community involved with the hopes of promoting the message of nonviolence.

Hargrave’s good friend, Mark Arrington, was shot and killed in Hollis in November 2007, when he was still at Sacramento State. That and the shootings of hip-hop artist Stack Bundles, Sean Bell and others were the inspiration for the event at its inception.

“It gives us an opportunity to touch more individuals where we are going hands-on to promote nonviolence in our community and bring different groups of people together in one arena to have some excitement and entertainment,” Bucknor said.

New this year is a free youth skills and development camp from Monday to Friday running from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Kids can sign up as they please and do not have to participate for the length of the camp and the New York Knicks and Liberty will have giveaways. Monday is Mother-Daughter Day followed by one for fathers and sons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be sports activities along with guest speakers and arts and crafts.

During the week there will be a local celebrity basketball game, a DJ vs. promoters contest and Hargrave, who plays for the Rosedale Trailblazers on the streetball circuit, said he is working on a possible firefighters against police officers matchup. There will also be a rap showcase featuring local artists.

The main event is still the traditional 5-on-5 tournaments, ranging from 8-year-old, 13U, 15U, high school and men’s divisions. The men’s tournament’s prize was raised to $5,000, up from $3,000 a year ago, and will be played over two days. Hargrave is hoping to get a dozen eight-man teams and bringing back four to six teams on championship Sunday. The contests are games of 21 by ones and twos played over 20 minutes running time with the clock stopping in the final minute. Along with the games there will be food, music, face painting and other activities starting 10 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.

“It’s about doing something positive for Queens, giving people something to look forward to,” said Hargrave, who played in China last season. “There is a lot of good talent in New York and Queens especially and they don’t have the showcase to showcase their abilities.”

He and his staff have shown an ability to put on a successful event that has people coming back and getting excited each year. Bucknor believes this might not be its final expansion. The future may bring it to even more parks.

“It’s growing and getting bigger and bigger just shows that people are appreciating it and people enjoy it,” Hargrave said. “It gives me some joy and it makes me want to continue to do it.”

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