HAVING a ball will keep teenagers off the streets on Saturday nights from next month.
Mount Druitt Midnight Basketball is back by popular demand and will take centre court for fifth time at Emerton Leisure Centre next Saturday (May 10).
The eight-week tournament is for those aged 12-18 from the 2770 postcode, except Minchinbury.
Based on the No Workshop, No Jumpshot rule, the participants get a hot dinner and attend a life skills workshop before they hit the basketball court.
They are driven home at the end of the night.
A record 90 teens registered for the last tournament.
"I hope the program is just as good if not better than last time," chairman Ron Bright said.
"Every time the kids see me, they ask when it's starting up again.
"It keeps the kids off the streets, gives them something to do and feel liked a valued member of the community.
"It gives them a purpose in life," he said.
Mount Druitt police have a presence at the tournament.
Mount Druitt Midnight Basketball was named community event of the year at Blacktown Council's Australia Day awards in January.
Mr Bright said he had seen a change in attitude in many participants.
"In the four tournaments we've had, we've never had any trouble," Mr Bright said.
"A little bit of guidance makes a big difference to the kids. The parents are just as grateful for the program as the kids are because they know their kids aren't on the streets."
Participants with an 100 per cent attendance at the last tournament were invited to play in a NBL Sydney Kings versus Perth Wildcats curtain-raiser in front of a big crowd.
"They wanted to do Mount Druitt proud," Mr Bright said.
Organisers had to reapply to continue Midnight Basketball for another two years.
Another tournament is expected to start in October.
*Mount Druitt Midnight Basketball is on every Saturday night from May 10 until June 28 at Emerton Leisure Centre.
Registrations start at 6.30pm.
It’s for ages 12-18 from the 2770 postcode,except Minchinbury.
The program is free for participants.
Volunteer drivers, team managers and scorers are needed.
Details: 8096 2373