Intelligencer JournalLancaster New Era

 Jan 25, 2010

By GREG CALDWELL, Correspondent 

Jerry Johnson continues to give back in many ways to Lancaster, even while playing basketball thousands of miles away. 

Johnson, a 2002 McCaskey and 2006 Rider University graduate, is founding an AAU team in Lancaster for boys 13 and under. The team is part of a bigger overall non-profit organization that Johnson founded last year, Back 2 Basics Youth Development and Sports Foundation. 

Johnson and the other members of the organization will run various camps, programs and life skills classes for the surrounding community. 

The team, which will hold tryouts and practices at Thaddeus Stevens College, is open to boys from the county and surrounding area who do not turn 14 until after Sept. 1 of this year. 

Johnson, currently in his fourth season playing professionally in Belgium for Spirou Basket Charleroi, won't be home until summer, but still serves as the organization's president. His ultimate goal is to build an independent sports complex with a pool, batting cages, basketball courts and a variety of classrooms for life skills, an area so many successful athletes forget when they are in high school. 

"I will bring something good to Lancaster. Sports will help kids focus on what is important in life," said Johnson. "If I was able to succeed as both a student and athlete, there is no reason these kids can not do the same. We need them to remember the importance of academics as they strive to make themselves better." 

The AAU tryouts will be over two weeks, Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 from nine a.m. to noon at Stevens College. Students must register on Jan. 30 to be eligible for the team. The $5 tryout fee is due when players arrive that day. 

Team members will also be obligated to take life skills classes throughout the season on issues such as accountability, sportsmanship, banking and academic excellence, among others. 

All boys who make the team will have an additional $100 fee that includes the AAU license, uniform and travel expenses for nearby tournaments and one weekend hotel event to be determined. The first tournament will be in March, and the season will conclude the end of June. 

The AAU team will total 12 players, but Johnson said those that do not make it will still have a chance to participate in the various summer camps. 

"It is so important to bring in people from different communities" said Johnson. "I played over the summer with many of my rivals during the basketball season. So many friendships can develop from both basketball and interaction off the court." 

Organization members, which include McCaskey boys basketball coach Steve Powell as vice president, are in the process of organizing a premiere night weekend on July 16-17. This event will include a basketball game and various other activities to entice businesses to support the organization. 

Information on the AAU team can be found on the Web site, Further details of the upcoming camps will be posted on the site by Jan. 29