BELLEVIEW, Fla. – Just a simple game of basketball is creating a positive impact for Marion County.
The Belleview International Ballers is an adult league fostering community and outreach.
24-year-old Andrew Humphries said there’s not much to do in the small community of Belleview for adults outside of work, even at the community Sportsplex.
“There used to be fights every single day. I’ve seen people get hit with baseball bats, I’ve seen people pull out guns, I’ve seen a lot of violence and chaos out here,” Humphries said.
In 2018, Leonard Attmore, known as “Unk,” dribbled up an idea to create a basketball league for adults, forming the Belleview International Ballers. Attmore has experience as a basketball coach for a community league in New York, continuing the idea when he moved to Belleview.
“A lot of gentleman have expressed how they love basketball. They just wanted to have this experience. It does fill a void for them. Gives them something to do before or after work,” Attmore said.
Attmore formed teams and has been hosting tournaments at the community basketball courts at Belleview Sportsplex. The league now has about 80 members.
“We’ve got people from Orlando, Leesburg and Jacksonville. I love it,” said Attmore.
Members living in Belleview said they have seen a change.
“There’s a lot of violence in this community, but it’s slowed down the past couple years since everyone started playing basketball together,” said Travis Bass, a BIB member. “We’ve got all the older guys 18 and up out here, not running the streets the way they are, it’s good for everybody.”
Local businesses and community leaders are getting in the game, sponsoring BIB.
Father Thomas Connery from St. Theresa Church said he has noticed a positive impact, watching practices and games from the sidelines with his two dogs.
“I bring food, grill, pizza just to be among the young people,” Connery said. “It’s a bit of a stretch, this is a retirement area so it’s like ‘Woah, I’m in a different world.’ I just try to learn about what these guys are going through.”
Father Connery has a special connection with Attmore, both are from New York.
“When I met the pastor last year, he came and said he wanted to be involved with the community and that’s what opened the doors for more people seeing us doing it,” Attmore said.
St. Theresa Church along with other local businesses chipped in to make improvements, sponsoring teams and paying for new basketball hoops. The names are displayed on the hoops and uniforms that BIB members wear.
Whether it’s to improve their skills, spend time with their families, build relationships or just offer support, different people from all walks of life coming together for a common purpose is a slam dunk for the entire community.
“When my son is out there watching me play, I feel like it gives me motivation. I hope he enjoys playing basketball when he gets older,” said BIB member Mike Acosta. “I feel like what he’s doing here is really good for the community. Probably better than anything else going on here.”
“These are some of my best friends now. I’ve gained more friends here than without BIB,” Bass said.
“Just to be there. To show support and say ‘Hey, we care about ya,’” Connery said.
Attmore is encouraging more businesses and community leaders to get involved in supporting the areas where they live. BIB is still looking for more sponsors for their summer and fall leagues, and hopes to form a youth league.
“If we’re not involved in the community in a positive way, what’s left for us?” Attmore said.
You don’t have to be from Belleview to get involved or become a member of the BIB league.
Right now, the cost is $50 and covers the uniform for the season.
To learn more about BIB or to join a team, you can email Leonard Attmore at email@example.com.