COLUMBIA — Alvin Harris sat on a folding chair under a tent, eating onion rings and watching his basketball team play on an outdoor court at Douglass Park. Sitting around Alvin Harris were his wife, Debra, daughter Lauren Luque, his grandsons 3-year-old Zion and 9-month-old Elijah, and some of the clients who frequent his barbershop.
Harris' players moved swiftly around the court in their red jerseys with the logo "A Cut Above the Rest," the name of Harris' barbershop on North Providence Road, above the numbers on their backs. Harris said he wore his red shirt to go with the team's color scheme. Eight players make up the team, including Harris' sons Lance, Logan and Lyle and his son-in-law Rey Luque.
"It’s really a family team," Harris said. "I am happy to see the whole family on Father’s Day."
Harris’ squad was one of six basketball teams that played in the first Battle of the Barbershops Basketball Tournament at Douglass Park on Sunday. Six barbershops fielded teams in the tournament. The other teams' members are players of high school age and above who are mostly customers, employees, friends and relatives of the shop owners. The tournament drew more than 100 people, including about 30 children practicing on a basketball court next to the one used for competition, emulating the older players in the tournament.
Harris said the game is mainly for the children in the community. "We are just trying to bring their parents out," Harris said. "Father’s Day is the best day for the game."
Harris said Logan, 23, is his only child who still lives in Columbia and it’s hard for the entire family to be together at once.
Lance Harris, 27, the eldest son, has been a professional basketball player for Galychana, a team in Ukraine, for five years. During the season, he lives in the Ukraine from August to May with his wife, Ryanne, and 17-month-old son Brayden. They come back to the U.S. in the summers to spend time with the rest of the family.
Lance’s youngest brother, Lyle, 20, is a sophomore guard at Northwest Missouri State University and is back on summer vacation.
Their sister Lauren Luque, 26, lives in Miami with her two sons and husband Rey Luque, who used to be a professional basketball player until badly injuring his knee while playing for Reynosa in Mexico in 2007.
Lyle Harris said they all came together for their father. "It’s all about Fathers’ Day," he said. "It’s a special present."
The competition was sponsored and launched by Marvin Stemmon, who is actively involved in a local organization that holds various events and activities with the goal of bringing the community together.
Stemmon said he spends time in several local barbershops, talking to people and taking inventory of the community's needs. "Barbershops and beauty salons control the whole community," he said. "This game is just to bring the community together as a whole."
"We want to make a change," Stemmon said. "The park is not a negative place."
Stemmon's goals for changing public perception of the park comes in light of the recent violence, including the March shooting of 17-year-old DeAudre Johnson near the park. Stemmon said the park doesn't deserve the negative labels often associated with it.
He said he plans on expanding the tournament next year.
Tracy Edwards, the coach for Harris’ team, has been a client at A Cut Above the Rest for about 20 years. He said he agreed to helm the team because he loves coaching young players.
Edwards used to be a basketball manager for Rock Bridge High School in the early '80s, and is currently a staff member for the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department.
"I coached a lot of kids here," Edwards said. "I’ll coach any one of them if they want me to."
Edwards also works for Moonlight Hoops, a summer basketball program started 23 years ago that provides an outlet for children in the area.
Latashia Ringold, a client at the barbershop, brought all four of her children to the game. Ringold said her 8-year-old son Kolin is a fan of basketball. "He said that’s his future," she said.
Ringold said that as a single mom, she received a lot of help from the Harris couple. "Alvin is just the father role in my kids’ lives."
The Harris family won the first game by four points, but they had a few games to go before they could become tournament champions.
"I hope we can get the championship," Lyle Harris said. "That would be the best present for my Dad."
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