Elite basketball academy nurtures talent in young players in NYC

The Program NYC has a mission: to restore New York's reputation as a mecca of young basketball talent by creating an elite youth basketball academy through the cultivation of local, home-grown talent.

The Program NYC's co-founders — Jared Effron and Griffin Taylor — hooped together as kids on courts of New York City and saw a need to create a centralized program.

"Does not matter your age, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic background, we want you to be in our gym," Effron said. "If you want to be in our gym and we will find a way to help you get better. And again, the idea is to unite in New York." 

"It's gotten to the point that we've kind of fallen off a cliff," Taylor said. "We're actually trailing states like Delaware and Wyoming in terms of Division-1 scholarships produce per capital."

The program's logo incorporates all the subway lines and the academy is set to be housed in a 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in Long Island City, Queens. 

Some pretty big names are attached to the project. Former Knicks great Carmelo Anthony is on board as a strategic advisor and will help identify underserved athletes to receive academy scholarships. Emanuel "Book" Richardson, who grew up playing on the courts of Harlem and the South Bronx, will serve as the academy team's head coach.

"Book is one of the if not the best coach maybe in New York, maybe in the country for developing talent," Effron said. "Personally, kids want to play for him and secondly, his eye for talent is second to none, he's coached 25 all-Americans over three decades."

In September 2017, Richardson, while at Arizona, was one of four assistant coaches arrested as part of a federal investigation surrounding corruption in college basketball. They were accused of taking bribes ranging from $13,000 to $100,000 to steer athletes to particular schools. Richardson served three months in prison after pleading guilty to a federal funds and bribery charge.

"Everybody deserves a second chance, everybody deserves a redemption story," Griffin said when asked why Richardson is the man for the job. "I think this is a great opportunity for Book to show that he's one of the best motivators of young boys and girls."

Richardson is now tasked with creating both elite boys' and girls' teams that can compete with the independent powerhouses throughout the country.

"The way that women's sport is moving these days, we're very invested in growing our girls' program," Effron said. "It's very important that we recruit and put as much effort and weight behind our girls' program as we do the boys' program."

Griffin said The Program NYC's membership model would open in late spring to all families. While the academy team would ideally be ready to compete for the fall 2023 season. 

The players will be expected to maintain a certain level of academic success. To facilitate that, the facility will have classrooms with tutors.