Hoops for Christ bringing hope behind bars

Sports have the power to bring people together even in the most unlikely of places.

LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- For high-level basketball players, basketball is so often just about wins and losses, and for Phillip Morrison that has been true for most of his career.

He played college ball for Asbury University and then went overseas and played professionally in the Philippines. While there, Phillip also worked to not just improve his game, but improve lives around him.

"I think more than anything we can see, that you know, basketball is a universal language,” he said.

That attitude became crucial when trying to communicate with children in the Philippines; but quickly, Phillip saw if you combine basketball with the bible, it's a winning team.

"I hooked up with a missionary and he took me into the slums of the Philippines,” he explained. “So we went to the slums, the gyms, and that's where God really opened my eyes to a purpose of basketball that I realized my talent, the little talent that God had given me, had taken me around the world, but really it was a gift not for myself but for others. That's where I got the idea of ‘Hoops for Christ.’"

Phillip recruited his best friend from his PRP high school days, Terrance Farley, to join his new organization.

"It all started with us on the West End of Louisville, on a concrete court with two kids and a free clinic,” Terrance said with a chuckle.

"We basically use basketball to train at a high level, so we are offering high-level training, but most importantly invest in these kids, teach them life skills, and the gospel," added Phillip.

Not long into his new venture, Phillip saw it wasn't just children with whom he could communicate through basketball.

This year, he and his group have started what they call, "the prison tour" -- and it's pretty much what it sounds like: they go into a prison, and take on a team.

"So the best inmates in that prison come together and they play against us in usually a packed out crowd, and it's all inmates,” said Phillip with a smile. “So you can imagine the environment is very electric, taking bets, they're loud, and they've told us this is like their Super Bowl; because, if they don't have this, they are just sitting in their cell."

"When I see them warming up on the court, I don't see inmates,” explained Terrance. “I see another human being right across from me and he's a competitor. He wants to win like I want to win and I think that's the greatest thing about basketball."

The games have become so popular that the prison system now films and shows them on TV's in prisons across the state.

But it's not just the games that the prisoners enjoy seeing, it's Phillip and his teammates who give the inmates hoops and hope.

"Actually one of the starting point guards for one of the teams was my college teammate,” said Phillip. “I did not know that. I walked in and he came right up to me and gave me a hug and he was so very quick to say, man, it's just good to see you, see a face that I know. There was no shame there. He just told me, this is my thing, I got to take him to the side and encourage him."

"What we try to do is empower them,” said Terrance. “Obviously they can still come back into society and make a powerful impact. That's the belief we like to give them and give them hope -- that's the greatest gift you can give someone: hope."

For more information on Hoops for Christ, you can go here: http://www.HoopsforChrist.org

 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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