By Timothy Young
In a San Quentin basketball tournament where the youth were team captains, Team Charlie beat Team Wilson, 30-23.
Young men in the Youth Offender Program go to lower-security prisons to serve their time under the mentorship of older men who are group facilitators and leaders. The Asian and Islander YOP Championship Basketball tournament held on March 26 at San Quentin put the youth in charge to teach them leadership.
“I didn’t mind taking instructions from these young men because we are teaching them to make positive choices and how to become leaders,” said Tom Saevang, who played in the tournament.
Player Philip Melendez added, “It’s good to see these young men take initiative where teamwork is key. It’s one way to get these youth involved in living a lifestyle that is positive.”
Four teams competed for a spot in a championship game. The teams, named after their captain, were: 19 year-old Wilson Nguyen’s Team Wilson, 18 year-old Charlie Srey’s Team Charlie, 19 year-old Dahvee Jenkins’s Team Dahvee and 21 year-old Kevin Neang’s Team Kevin.
Kevin Neang and Vi Chau organized the event.
“This creates a fun, learning and positive community for these youth here,” said Robert Lee, who refereed the games alongside Ishmael Freelon and Isiah Caldwell.
“It’s good to see these young men take initiative where teamwork is key”
Team Charlie started hot, winning the opening game 32-22 with Srey scoring 9 points on Team Kevin. Julio Saca contributed 11 rebounds and Phirak “Kid” Kim scored 8 points with two rebounds.
In round two, K. Uch led Team Wilson to victory, scoring 13 points with three rebounds against team Charlie. Team Wilson won, 30-19.
In round three, Nguyen dropped 15 points to secure Team Wilson a 30 to 25 win over Team Kevin and a spot in the championship game.
The final game came down to Team Charlie and Team Wilson. Saca scored 19 points with six rebounds followed by Kim’s eight points giving Team Charlie the win.
“It was an honor to be a part of the Asian & Islander YOP League,” Sou Liem Saechao said. “I’m very proud of them (the youth); they did an excellent job of putting these games together. An event like this demonstrates that we are moving in the right direction with our younger generation. All they really needed was a little positive encouragement to help them in the right direction.”
The Team Charlie members were Srey, Kim, Saca, Chau, Tith Ton, Toamsi Latu, and Blue.
On Team Wilson were E. Fejeran, Upu Ama, Saechao, Jeremiah Stephens, Sou Saechao, Lee and Davis.
“At other prisons there weren’t any opportunities to have tournaments, but in San Quentin, the tournaments allow us to have fun among our community,” Vah Saechao said. “It’s a positive activity to learn how to lead and come together.”