ATLANTIC CITY - The Shoot Hoops Not Guns youth basketball league is underway at the Salvation Army gymnasium on South Texas Avenue here.

Boys and girls from ages 10 to 16 are invited to participate in the free mentoring program that is presented by We Got Game Streetball and The Salvation Army Atlantic City Corps.

A group of seven zealous youth gathered Saturday with volunteer coaches Dorian Gilmer and Alfonso Brooks, both of Atlantic City. Players were eager to follow their coaches’ directions as they listened to the tips they were offering.

The group practiced shooting the ball, dribbling and rebounds.

“I like learning how to play basketball,” said La’Quan Daniels, 9, of Atlantic City. His favorite part so far was playing with his friends, some new and some old, and dribbling the ball behind his back, a technique he noted is called handling.

“It gets me running and keeps me active,” said Brandon Stotts, 14, of Atlantic City.

“Primarily, it gets them off the street,” said Gilmer. “You come out and play and socialize. We talk to them about their basketball interests and just have fun. There are a couple different programs going on in the city, but in this program you don’t have to qualify for a team. You just come out and play.”

The league will meet at noon every Saturday until mid-February. The first weeks have been spent getting the players in shape with drills. Coaches focused on fundamentals such as dribbling, passing, shooting set shots, free-throws, jump shots and layups. Remaining weeks will be spent honing their skills to prepare for three-on-three play and the skills course.

“We do instruction to teach the kids the fundamentals of dribbling and shooting and passing,” Gilmer said. “In response to what’s going on in the urban areas, we call it Shoot Hoops Not Guns. We take everybody that comes in the door and there is no registration fee.”

Marlon Lewis, 11, of Atlantic City spoke enthusiastically about his participation in the league. “There’s a whole bunch of people here and we can play and do all kinds of things. We have really good coaches, too. This one is my grandpop,” he said as he grabbed on to volunteer coach Alfonso Brooks.

Shoot Hoops Not Guns is presented by We Got Game Streetball. Gilmer directed the league several years ago, but had to take a break when he underwent hip replacement surgery. After a challenging recovery, he is anxious to get the program on its feet again.

He said the Salvation Army graciously provides the space in the gym, and organizers are hoping to gain enough interest in the program to extend it to include one day after school. Call (609) 813-1250 or (609) 344-0660 for more information.

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