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The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce 1973. The predominantly African-American community of South Central Los Angeles carries the burdens of crime, poverty, an escalating gang population and dwindling opportunities for its youth. In response, a young man named Alvin Willis formed a six-team competitive basketball league at Charles Drew Junior High School. It was an outlet for himself and his friends. It became known as the Drew League. Or, more affectionately, “The Drew.” Its motto, “No excuse, just produce." More than just a place to play ball, the Drew League provided a safe haven for kids and young men seeking refuge from the negative influences around them. The Drew quickly became neutral ground. Whatever gang affiliations players arrived with were left at the gym doors. Whatever violence occurred outside its walls never penetrated. The residents of South Central nurtured this local treasure as a counterweight, helping balance the scales against darker paths more easily found. In 1983, after more than a decade in charge, Willis stepped down as commissioner, passing the torch to his longtime protege, Dino Smiley. A resident of South Central himself, Smiley grew up around The Drew, starting by doing every odd job from waterboy to scorekeeping. Eventually he would run a team of his own. Over the next 30 years, The Drew persevered through social, logistical and financial instability, a testament to force of will and the power of family. Dino’s own, including his wife and children and the extended family that formed around the league. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins -– whole families were woven into the tapestry of the league as players, fans, or volunteers. Still, the pressures of running the league took their toll. Year after year, it became tougher to consistently find the funding and resources necessary to make the league work, and by 2010, Dino had to consider shutting it down. That was, until the NBA unintentionally provided The Drew its greatest opportunity. During the lockout of 2011, the Association’s best pros needed a place to stay sharp. Having long served as a talent incubator for local pros from Byron Scott to Baron Davis and James Harden, The Drew threw open its doors to the greatest basketball talent in the world, as Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant joined dozens of peers, hooping in South Central. All eyes were on Los Angeles, and, as it had for decades, The Drew produced.