South Charlotte

Men's basketball club plays its best off court

Social media for social good - that's the south Charlotte hoops group's new mission, says founder Bo Hussey.

Hussey's group, SCLThoops - short for South Charlotte Hoops - is a come-one-come-all group of men interested in a game of pickup basketball on Saturday mornings.

It started in March 2010 with a simple tweet asking if anyone was interested in shooting around.

Six south-Charlotteans met at Community House Middle School that first day, and over the next few months the group grew exponentially.

About 40 men now are part of the group, and anywhere from 10 to 20 show up on any given Saturday. The players range in age from mid-20s to late 40s.

Though the core group of hoopsters lives in the Ballantyne area, people come from all over the city to get in on the action and networking opportunities. Some drive from Lake Norman, Belmont and the University area just for the Saturday-morning games.

Because it started on Twitter, SCLThoops has become a network of social media-ites. More than 75 percent of make social media part of their job.

Like many of the men in the group, Hussey, 45, understands marketing. He worked with the former Charlotte Hornets, the Charlotte Bobcats, and just recently left his position as vice president of marketing and communications at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont to take a job at a marketing agency.

"It's a good conglomerate of people. ... No one is out there to become a great basketball player," said SCLThoops regular Jason Yarborough, 32, who moved to Charlotte two years ago and made many friends via Twitter.

This fall, Hussey and the group began discussing how to use their platform to give back to the community.

"We decided to do more than just get together and play basketball every week," said Yarborough. "(We) wanted to make more of a contribution to the community we're a part of."

The group reached out to Ryan Grammatico from Right Moves for Youth, a program that works with community partners to encourage students to improve their school attendance, behavior and academic performance.

Grammatico asked if SCLThoops would work with Right Moves volunteers to restore the dilapidated weight room at West Mecklenburg High.

In late October, 18 men from the SCLThoops group skipped their pickup game to help refurbish the room.

"It was very, very dirty," said Hussey. "You could tell it hadn't been cleaned in years. The weight equipment had holes in it, and I couldn't even tell you the last time it'd been painted."

The volunteers reupholstered the weight benches, painted and gave the equipment and entire room a deep cleaning.

Inspired by the success of their first community venture, Hussey and Yarborough discussed sponsoring two families for Christmas through the Matthews Help Center. But they wanted to give them more than the families had requested on their wish lists.

While visiting one of the families, the group realized how great its needs were. The family had no sofa, no kitchen table, no vacuum cleaner.

"She had one pot and one pan," said Hussey. "When we got there, they were sitting on the floor eating dinner."

SCLThoops took to the Web to raise money for their cause. In less than two weeks, the dozens of tweets, Facebook posts and email blasts yielded about $4,500 in cash and furnishings.

The group also used some of the money to give each family $500 in gift cards to stores including Wal-Mart, Target and Food Lion.

SCLThoops currently is "gym-less," Hussey said, and often switches locations. It started at Community House, moved to Carolina Courts in Indian Trail, played a little at Hussey's Southampton neighborhood court, and has spent the last two months at the Elon Recreation Center, off Ardrey Kell Road and behind Elon Park Elementary.

The group now is deciding what project to tackle next.

"You can count on this group of guys ... but not just for each other," said Hussey. "That's why I like the giving-back piece."

"It's using social media for social good."